A prolific thief who racially abused a supermarket security guard has been spared jail after again vowing to turn his life around.
Former drug dealer David Knowles has 40 previous convictions for 127 offences, including shamelessly using his four-year-old daughter as a decoy while shoplifting.
He has used his past marriage, his children, his drug dependency and a forthcoming baby in defence of his crimes.
And now a judge has allowed the 44-year-old to walk free from court after admitting “every type of criminal sentence” has failed to halt his offending.
Preston Crown Court heard how Knowles, of Ainsdale Drive, Ashton, Preston, hurled racist insults at Ali Abbas, before putting on a mock Asian accent and shouting ‘you don’t understand English do you?’
Anthony Longworth, prosecuting, said Knowles first attacked Mr Abbas in 2011, after the security guard detained the “prolific shoplifter” when he was caught stealing from Sainsbury’s in Bamber Bridge.
After the incident, Sainsbury’s sent the dad-of-two a letter, which said he was no longer welcome in any of its premises.
But Knowles claimed he didn’t receive the letter, and on April 12 last year, he visited the branch again, saying he was there to help a retired woman do her shopping.
Mr Abbas recognised the thief when he entered the store and greeted him before seeking advice from his manager.
As Knowles was leaving the shop, Mr Abbas asked him if he would wait and speak to his boss, in a “perfectly proper and polite” manner.
Mr Longworth said: “He said ‘I don’t want to speak to you ****.’
Another security guard came over to help his colleague.
He heard Knowles say: ‘Get out of my way you **** *******, I’m going to come back and do you’.”
The court heard that Mr Abbas, who has lived in England for six years, was embarrassed by the incident and upset by what he perceived to be a case of “public humiliation”.
Knowles denied the offence when interviewed by police, but pleaded guilty on the day of a trial to racially aggravated harassment.
His criminal record, which stretches back to 1981, includes burglary, theft, taking vehicles, dishonesty, handling stolen goods, battery and possession of drugs.
In 1998, during a police car chase in the Blackpool Road area of Deepdale, Knowles mounted busy pavements in a Nissan, causing people to scatter for their lives in terror.
A judge said he could have killed a pedestrian and sentenced him to 19 months in prison for dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and without insurance.
In mitigation his defence barrister said Knowles had recently married and that his new wife would stand by him on this occasion.
In 1999 police raided a heroin operation at a home in Norbreck Drive, Ashton, which Knowles had orchestrated with another man.
Officers found just under an ounce of heroin being delivered to Knowles, who later pleaded guilty to possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply and was jailed for two years.
In 2001 he received a four-year prison sentence for supply of heroin, after he was caught selling the drug to undercover police officers in a deal on Savick Estate.
Knowles has repeatedly been caught shoplifting over the past decade, and in 2011 used his child as a foil while he and his partner Gillian Howie stole £300 of goods from a store in Fishergate.
He made his child try on shoes in Accessorize before loading them into an open carrier bag along with dresses and more shoes.
On that occasion Knowles escaped a jail term by saying he was determined to become a better father, claiming that a chance meeting with his grown-up son in prison had made him realise he didn’t want his daughter to follow the same path.
But just four days later he was spotted on CCTV stealing £500 of clothes from Next at Deepdale Retail Park, and magistrates locked him up for 70 days.
In the most recent case, Sharon Watson, defending, said her client was now drug free, and that going back to prison could impact on his recovery.
She argued it would also deny him the chance to see his partner have their second child.
Judge Stuart Baker said no form of punishment, including imprisonment, curfews, community orders, drug rehabilitation orders and fines, had changed Knowles’ behaviour.
He said: “You have a long and dismal history of criminal offending since 1981, when you were only 13.
“You have been sentenced in just about every way that is known to the criminal law system.
“Every type of criminal sentence that can be imposed has been imposed on you in the past and it hasn’t stopped you from reoffending.
“You clearly don’t appear to have learned a great deal over the years.”
He handed Knowles 23 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, a 12-week home curfew from 8pm to 6am each day, and an 18-month supervision order.
The judge also imposed a three-year restraining order, preventing him from approaching Mr Abbas or visiting the Sainsbury’s stores in Bamber Bridge or Preston.
Knowles, wearing a cream jacket and dark jumper in court, grinned as he left the dock.