A THIEF who 'bullied' and stole from an 82-year-old woman in a crime described as despicable has been spared jail — so he can to pay compensation to his elderly victim.

Neil McPhee, 39, took the pensioner's brand new tablet computer after saying that it would 'do' his son but then advertised the still-boxed £89.99 device for sale on Facebook.

Sheriff Derek Hamilton told him: "This was a particularly distasteful and quite horrible and despicable offence.

"You befriended a lady in her 80s and, to my mind, thereafter bullied her by taking the tablet from her when she had not even opened its box.

"You only had to look at the woman when she gave her evidence to see her shock that she was, I believe, unaware that you'd tried to sell it."

McPhee — a former soldier of East Shaw Street in Greenock — forced his victim to go through the ordeal of a trial in March after insisting that he was innocent.

But the grasping crook — who befriended the OAP after she became a regular at a restaurant he worked in — was caught after his advert picture clearly showed it had been taken in his house.

He tried to portray himself as a caring individual before the trial by posing for a photograph in the Telegraph regarding raising money for the Scottish Autism charity.

McPhee regularly visited his victim for cups of tea and stole the tablet from her in August last year, almost immediately after she'd bought it from Argos.

Greenock Sheriff Court was told that he hadn't brought any compensation money with him to his sentencing hearing.

However, he must pay the woman a total of £150 — almost twice the value of the stolen item — as part of a series of measures imposed on him as an alternative to prison.

Sheriff Hamilton told him: "I have to evaluate whether it is best for the public to send you to prison.

"With some hesitation I have decided that custody is not the best way forward here."

As well as the compensation order, McPhee must complete 200 hours of unpaid work within 12 months and he will be electronically tagged and confined to his home between 6pm and 6am each day for six months.

The sheriff said: "If you breach any part of this you will be brought back here and resentenced."