Footballer given community service order

Published Wednesday, 11 June 2014
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Retired footballer Keith Gillespie escaped a jail sentence after a judge ordered him to complete 100 hours of community service for three breaches of a non-molestation order - which included setting up a fake social network account.

Footballer given community service order
Gillespie has written a book about gambling away millions. (© Presseye)

Freeing the 39-year-old ex-Man United midfielder at Newtownards Magistrates' Court, Deputy District Judge Gerald Trainor told the former premiership winger "the court stands back from the prospect of custody" given the contents of the pre-sentence probation report.

"In this case there was consistent and repeated offending and you know that that court actively considered the possibility regarding a custodial sentence," said Judge Trainor adding that he was "only now satisfied that you do appreciate how seriously these matters are considered by the court".

He had previously heard how Gillespie repeatedly telephoned and texted his ex-partner and even posted a "personal photograph" of her online.

Gillespie pleaded guilty to three separate breaches of a court imposed non-molestation order on dates in December last year and January and February this year.

A prosecuting lawyer had outlined how following the breakdown of their relationship, his ex-partner was granted a temporary non-molestation order on 6 December last year but that within hours of police officers serving it on the footballer, Gillespie texted her three times.

The lawyer conceded while there was "nothing threatening" in those messages which read: "I got your summons. I spoke to police and realise now why you withheld your number but you are the last one to call so you are not that clever," she added that the injured party was "very concerned regarding the defendants course of action and she felt harassed by his behaviour".

The next breach happened on 21 January this year, a week after the temporary non-molestation order was extended for a year, when Gillespie telephoned his ex-partner nine times between 2am and 4am.

"Immediately suspecting" that Gillespie was making the calls, his "very frightened" ex-partner did not answer the phone but instead "checked outside the windows for him, waiting for him to appear", the prosecutor said.

Arrested and interviewed Gillespie, from Ballycrochan Avenue in Bangor, admitted the first breach in December but while he admitted owning the phone which made the numerous early morning calls, said he had no explanation for them and denied making them.

The last breach came on 25 February when, having heard that his former partner had a new man, Gillespie set up a fake Instagram account in her name and posted what was described as a "personal photograph" on the online website.

Arrested and interviewed about that incident, Gillespie admitted setting the account up but claimed he didn't realise that doing so would breach the order.

Making a plea in mitigation Mr Duncan said the offences arose as a result of Gillespie "having difficulties in coming to terms with the breakdown of the relationship" and not being able to see his son.

He said there was no allegation of physical violence in the relationship but rather it was Gillespie's unwanted contact which lead to the non-molestation order, submitting that his breaches were "fairly benign".

On Wednesday, Mr Duncan said Gillespie had "come to terms" with the fact the relationship was dead with "no going back" and that he was taking legal steps to obtain regular contact with the child.

"That is reflective of someone who has shown a much more mature attitude and shows that things have moved on," said the lawyer adding that Gillespie publicly "apologised" to his ex-partner.

As well as the community service order, Judge Trainor also imposed a two-year restraining order barring Gillespie from contacting his victim or encouraging anyone to contact her on his behalf, going within 200 metres of her Bangor home and from setting up any account on any social media website in her name.

The judge told Gillespie what he had done was "a form of domestic violence" but that the court recognised his "significant achievements through life which obviously brought great commendations on yourself and the area from which you come from."

Judge Trainor said what had initially concerned the court was that "you didn't stop offending" and indeed, his offending became worse and culminated in the fake Instagram account which was the most serious aspect of the case.

He added, however, that probation had assessed Gillespie as not posing a risk and had a low likelihood of reoffending and who does not have a "pro-domestic violence attitude".

Outside the court Gillespie declined to comment.

The former winger for Leicester, Newcastle United, Manchester United was declared legally bankrupt in 2010.

Gillespie wrote in his autobiography entitled "how not to be a football millionaire," that he had spent around £7m as part of a gambling addiction.

In his playing career he won 86 caps for Northern Ireland having made his debut in September 1994 in a 2-1 defeat against Portugal and finished his international career in 2008.

© UTV News
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