Highlighting the soft approach taken by judges to serial offenders, Colin Orr, 46, appeared at Carlisle Crown Court expecting to be jailed.
A shocked court heard the career criminal had over three decades of illegal activity behind him as Orr admitted yet again stealing from a supermarket.
Committing the crime the petty crook, from Whitehaven Cumbria, breached a previous suspended prison sentence for shoplifting.
But rather than jail him, Orr was given just a curfew and yet another ‘warning’ to mend his ways.
Judge Tony Lancaster told him: “At 46 you really ought to be changing your ways after such a significant life of offending!”
The serial thief has in the past been jailed for his offences – although his most recent crimes have warranted suspended sentences.
Prosecutor Kim Whittlestone described him as a “prolific shop offender” as she outlined the facts of his latest indiscretion last November 26th in the Aldi supermarket.
He spent all his benefit money, I am afraid
Miss Whittlestone explained: “He was seen by members of security staff.
“He picked up a store basket and made his way around the meat aisle to behave suspiciously, hiding around various shop displays.”
Orr stole £44 worth of meat, the theft being captured clear as day on in store CCTV footage.
Last year he was given a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for two years, for removing security tags from bottles of alcohol.
That suspended sentence should be activated in the event of a fresh offence in the next 24 months.
Miss Whittlestone said Orr’s criminal record comprised “24 pages” with the first conviction logged in April, 1981.
Since then he had received a range of court punishments, including short periods of imprisonment.
However Brendan Burke, defending, told the court instead of being jailed and activating the suspended sentence, his client should be given just a curfew.
Mr Burke argued Orr had shown recent better behaviour lately which had impressed a judge monitoring his behaviour.
Mr Burke said of the Aldi theft: “The reason for this lapse – I can call it a lapse given the history of progress – is that he spent all his benefit money, I am afraid, at a bookmaker’s.”
As a result he fell behind with domestic payments and feared losing his home.
This, said Mr Burke, would have brought Orr “right back to square one” – “as would a prison sentence”.
And having heard of the defendant’s “genuinely positive progress”, Judge Lancaster unusually decided not to activate the suspended jail term.
Instead delighted Orr was allowed to walk free from court with just a three-month night-time curfew and extra rehabilitation sessions.
Urging Orr to mend his ways, the judge warned him that he was in a ‘last chance saloon’.
Judge Lancaster added: “Otherwise it is going to be a depressing, never-ending cycle of being in and out of prison with no roots, no accommodation, no base.”