A THIEF who became a new Greenock store's first shoplifter has been spared prison but warned he faces a year-and-a-half behind bars if he flouts a community payback order.

Ross McFarlane swiped a set of wireless earphones after queuing up with socially distanced customers to get inside The Range just four days after it opened last month.

McFarlane, 28 — who has numerous convictions for breaching court orders — had been locked up since then after a sheriff remanded him in custody pending sentencing for the offence.

He stole the £12.99 earphones whilst subject to bail concerning four other criminal matters but was quickly stopped by sharp-eyed staff at the exit door before he could get away.

Prosecutor Pamela Brady said: "It would appear that the store is to be commended for its security measures."

Greenock Sheriff Court heard that McFarlane is currently being prosecuted on drugs and disorder charges which are due to call next month and in October.

Defence lawyer David Tod said: "This was not theft in furtherance of a drug habit, but he does have a drug habit.

"Mr McFarlane has been working with the drugs unit sporadically but this could now be formalised."

McFarlane said he went to The Range to buy bread and milk from its in-store Iceland outlet.

But he abandoned an empty shopping basket he'd picked up at the entrance after making a beeline for the technology aisle.

Sheriff Andrew McIntyre told McFarlane: "I could be justified in going against the presumption of not sending you to prison.

"But I've got to bear in mind the level of the offence.

"I will give you an opportunity to engage with the drugs team.

"I have no difficulty with that because the one-and-a-half-year sentence that is open to me will still be open to me."

McFarlane has been placed on supervision for 18-months, with a drug treatment element attached to the monitoring programme.

He must also complete 140 hours of unpaid work.

Sheriff McIntyre said: "If you do not comply I will not waste the local authority's time and you will be brought back here and sentenced afresh."