United Friendly has escaped a £23,000 payout after a Sunderland woman appeared in Durham Crown Court on insurance fraud charges.

Kim Richards pleaded guilty to attempting to obtain £2,500 by deception from the insurer on December 8 last year. She received two years conditional discharge but her guilty plea nullified her original insurance claim for £23,000.

Richards had submitted the claim in December 1999, following an alleged burglary at her house.

She claimed several ornamental animals, including a bronze horse worth £460, marble crocodile worth £480, gorilla worth £799, musical unicorn worth £110, owls worth £1,200, assorted dragon figurines worth £800, and electrical goods had been stolen.

The case was brought to the attention of Northumbria police by Kent-based loss adjusters Claims Management & Adjusting (CMA) in April..

CMA director Philip Swift said his investigators, who had started working on the case in March, quickly noticed a number of irregularities in the claim.

Swift said he was pleased to have achieved a successful outcome for the insurer but disappointed with the sentence Richards received.

“It was satisfying because we did everything we could,” he said.

“We would have like to have seen a fine imposed, community service or a suspended sentence.”

Northumbria police worked on the case for five months, during which time they made several visits to Richard's house..

An officer involved in the investigation said police were also disappointed at the leniency of the court's decision.