A SERIAL thief dubbed "Gwent’s most prolific offender" has notched up his 390th conviction after getting caught stealing blocks of cheese from Tesco.

Andrew John Paul Davies, 33, dubbed 'Fingers' has been a regular offender since the age of 15, with 257 of his convictions being for thefts and burglaries.

He has spent much of the last 18 years in jail, with many shops in and around Newport falling victim to his offending.

Davies appeared at Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court on Thursday via video link from Parc Prison - where he is currently serving a 42-day sentence.

He pleaded guilty to stealing £16.72 worth of cheese from Tesco Express, Cambrian Road, on January 8.

The court heard Davies had taken cocaine before the offence. Defence solicitor Gareth Williams said: "He has an unenviable, very long record. But, this was unsophisticated, he put a few blocks of cheese in his jumper."

Chairwoman of the bench Gay Gwinnutt sentenced Davies to 14 days in prison after he admitted the offence - citing his long list of previous for it being "harsher than it would have been".

Davies of Palmyra Place has been jailed on many occasions over the years, including in March 2006 after admitting burglary of HMV, burglary of Peacocks, Maindee, stealing perfume from Next and shoplifting from Spar.

At the time, prosecutor Craig Bond said: "He is probably Gwent’s most prolific offender."

Then, he had notched up 277 convictions, 175 for theft and had been given a two-year anti-social behaviour order banning him from entering Newport city centre in June 2005.

Other convictions included seven for drugs, seven offences against property, two frauds, two weapons offences and one assault.

His offending continued and in March 2011, Davies was jailed for 32 weeks after admitting stealing six jars of Nescafe from Marks and Spencer.

A justice system source said: "Fingers has been in and out of prison all his life and is well-known for hanging around Newport shops in his white shell suit.

"He’d steal anything, even the sugar out of your tea. He’s not violent, just a thief."

His sentence will run concurrently to his current sentence and Davies will be free in the middle of February.

‘Outrageous’ offending - councillor

Newport city councillor for the Allt-yr-Yn ward Matthew Evans called his consistent offending "outrageous" and said the cost to the public purse, in court appearances over the years "must be extortionate".

He said: "We can’t have someone continually breaking the law day-in day-out. It is unfair to the victims and something is clearly wrong, the system is failing.

"It can’t be beyond us to work out why he keeps doing it, the deeper issues. Until someone grasps the bull by the horns and sorts out the other issues, he should be put in jail, in a secure unit, to stop him re-offending."

A spokeswoman for Gwent Police said she could not comment on individual offenders, but said: "Newport Neighbourhood Policing Team has dedicated officers who patrol the City Centre in order to target shoplifting.

"They work closely with management and security staff at retail premises in the area on prevention and enforcement.

"Anyone with information relating to individuals shoplifting in the area is asked to contact 101."

ARGUS COMMENT: Catalogue of villainy

AFTER getting caught committing 390 crimes you would have thought Andrew John Paul Davies would have learned his lesson by now.

The man dubbed Gwent’s most prolific offender in 2006 is, six year later, still up to no good and is currently serving a 14 day jail sentence for stealing cheese.

His catalogue of villainy reads like a shoplifters' charter and is indeed excessive.

But our front-page story is an unfortunate reality for many courts these days.

While we read of the many successful prosecutions resulting in significant jail time for the offenders, the magistrates’ courts see the likes of Davies on a daily basis.

Petty and persistent criminals who see court appearances and prison sentences as an occupational hazard.

His crimes may seem minor but people like Davies present a very real problem for the justice system and taxpayers.

He costs money to arrest, he costs money to prosecute and he costs money to house in jail.

It is clear that punishment does not act as the deterrent it should, so what can we do?

As councillor Matthew Evans summed up: "It can’t be beyond us to work out why he keeps doing it."

Until we do criminals like Davies will continue to clog up our courts and prisons.