A LEDBURY woman has narrowly avoided jail after attempting to hide more than £40,000 in assets from financial investigators.

Nicola Saxelby, of Prince Rupert Road, served a two-year jail sentence given to her in January 2013, for fraud after stealing £290,000 from the Hawkins farming family she worked for.

The 54-year-old was again brought before Worcester Crown Court on Wednesday, (August 16), this time for perverting the course of justice, which she had pleaded guilty to just before a trial was scheduled to begin last month.

Prosecuting, Andrew Wilkins told the court Saxelby was made the subject of proceeds of crime investigation to claim back the cash and filled out official forms declaring her assets, that were submitted to the court.

Mr Wilkins said shortly after being released from prison in September 2013, Saxelby reported to police that her ex-husband had stolen some of her property, during her sentence.

No action was taken against her ex-husband but in the course of their enquires it became apparent to officers that there had been assets she was in control of, that had not been declared.

Saxelby's property was seized from the new home she was renting, after selling off her previous home to help pay off the original assets order. Property was also seized from a storage firm in Ledbury, and from her daughter's address.

Jewellery worth £36,000, £1,500 worth of shoes, and £8,500 worth of designer handbags - a total of £46,000 - was not declared.

Defending, Michael Aspinall explained when Saxelby was first charged she had never been in court before, and so had completed a sworn statement of her assets in December 2012, at a time she had been under "considerable stress".

Mr Aspinall said Saxelby suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder which had led to her making the purchases of bags and jewellery, and had been given wrong advice on declaring her assets.

Mr Aspinall said: "In short, she was all over the place.

"She assumed police knew everything.

"She fell into committing the offence, rather than it being dishonest."

He added she had not reoffended since leaving prison.

Judge Nicholas Cole said: "I have to do everything I can to make sure you do not benefit from the proceeds of your crime."

The judge said he understood the stress at the time of signing the statement, but when the pressure had subsided she still failed to declare the assets properly.

Judge Cole gave Saxelby a jail sentence of nine months, suspended for a year.

Saxelby is to be supervised during this period, and was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Judge Cole explained she had avoided a custodial sentence as Saxelby had shown she was capable of staying out of trouble, there was a realistic prospect of rehabilitation, and if jailed she would lose her rented home which would mean her son would become homeless.

A forfeiture order of the property was also made by judge which means she was deprived of the items, which will be sold by auction with the proceeds going to the Hawkins family.