A 'MEAN' thief who swiped a supermarket customer's handbag and fled has been spared prison — despite having an identical previous conviction.

William Reid, 47, targeted the bag — containing cash and a bank card — at Tesco Extra in Greenock.

He stole it while its owner's back was turned, the town's sheriff court was told.

Prosecutor Saud Ul Hassan said: "The witness was shopping with her husband, she turned her back and shortly thereafter observed her handbag to be stolen.

"It contained a wallet with £10 in cash, a bank card, a bus pass and a £20 Tesco gift card.

"The incident was captured on CCTV, police were contacted and the accused was identified from the footage by officers."

The court heard how police obtained a search warrant and swooped on the bag snatcher, who was living on Mill Street at the time, the day after the theft last July but the stolen items weren't there.

Jobless Reid, now of Dempster Street, had also been charged with a handbag theft in Tesco a week earlier, being concerned in the supply of herbal cannabis and with bypassing a domestic electricity meter but his not guilty pleas to these allegations were accepted by the Crown.

Defence lawyer Aidan Gallagher said: "It might be suggested that the theft was opportunistic, but it was a mean theft and there has been no recovery.

"He has a conviction in 2014 of a similar nature, and I don't lose sight of that in my representations on his behalf."

Sheriff Thomas Ward placed Reid under supervision for 12 months.

He also ordered him to complete 110 hours of unpaid work within six months as a direct alternative to custody.