A SERIAL thief who has avoided prison despite 25 previous convictions for crimes of dishonesty has finally been jailed.

Cari Welsh — currently recovering from life-threatening sepsis — has been locked up for her own 'benefit'.

The 42-year-old's latest series of shoplifting raids saw her steal a £300 pressure washer, £138 worth of clothes and food, a £45 video game and a £25 pair of trainers.

She helped herself to the items from B&Q, JD Sports, Iceland, Game and Sports Direct between June and September last year.

Welsh's lawyer, Gerry Keenan, acknowledged to Greenock Sheriff Court: "She has a bad record."

But Mr Keenan added: "However, her circumstances have changed fairly dramatically since November when she was taken to hospital with a life-threatening illness.

"She has lost a significant amount of weight and remains very unwell.

"She presents today in court as a totally different figure to the person involved in that type of offending.

"She is simply not fit to embark on the type of life she previously led."

Sheriff Thomas Ward remarked: "There are at least 25 cases of dishonesty — 34 in all — and she's never been to jail.

"I find that hard to fathom."

Solicitor Mr Keenan said: "Drugs and drink led to a breakdown in her health.

"If she wants to live very much longer she has been told she has to stop drinking and taking controlled drugs.

"She seems to be taking that advice.

"I think that the health of the offender is a significant factor."

But Sheriff Ward said: "In prison she would be getting three meals a day and would be receiving medical treatment — that could be of benefit to her.

"She would also have no access to illegal drugs."

The sheriff told Welsh: "You've had every disposal known to man regarding your previous offences.

"How you have escaped prison before now is beyond me.

"I don't see that there is any other way of dealing with you other than by a period of imprisonment."

Welsh, of Nelson Street in Greenock, was sentenced to a total of 160 days on all charges.