Northern Ireland

Keith Gillespie sentenced to community service for court breaches

Keith Gillespie going into court
Keith Gillespie was told the court "considered" a custodial sentence

Former Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballer Keith Gillespie has been sentenced to community service for three breaches of a court order.

The 39-year-old had pleaded guilty to breaches of a non-molestation order against an ex-partner.

The judge at a County Down court told Gillespie that the court "considered the possibility regarding a custodial sentence".

The judge decided against a prison term after reading the pre-sentence report.

He sentenced Gillespie to 100 hours of community service and said he was "only now satisfied that you do appreciate how seriously these matters are considered by the court".

'Harassed'

Newtownards Magistrates Court had heard that Gillespie, of Ballycrochan Avenue, Bangor, had repeatedly telephoned and texted his ex-partner and posted a "personal photograph" of her online.

A prosecuting lawyer said the ex-partner was granted the temporary non-molestation order on 6 December, 2013, but Gillespie texted her three times within hours of being served the order.

The lawyer said there was "nothing threatening" in the messages but added that the victim was "very concerned" and "felt harassed by his behaviour".

The next breach came on 21 January, when Gillespie telephoned his ex-partner nine times between 02:00 GMT and 04:00 GMT.

The prosecution said the "very frightened" ex-partner did not answer the phone but instead "checked outside the windows, waiting for him to appear".

When arrested and interviewed, Gillespie admitted the first breach and owning the phone used in the second breach, although he denied making the calls.

'Relationship breakdown'

The court heard that the final breach, on 25 February, involved Gillespie setting up a fake profile for his ex-partner on social media site Instagram and then posting a "personal photograph" to the profile.

The prosecution said he did this after learning the victim had a new partner.

When interviewed, Gillespie admitted setting up the account but said he did not realise this would breach the order.

In mitigation, a defence lawyer said the offences came about due to Gillespie "having difficulty coming to terms with the breakdown of the relationship" and not being able to see his son.

He added that Gillespie now realised there was "no going back" with the relationship and was taking legal steps to obtain regular contact with his child.

"This is reflective of someone who has shown a much more mature attitude and shows that things have moved on," said the lawyer.

'Form of domestic violence'

He added that Gillespie had apologised to the victim.

The judge said he was initially concerned that Gillespie did not stop offending and that it culminated in the fake Instagram account, which was the most serious aspect of the case.

He said what the former footballer had done was "a form of domestic violence".

However, he added that a pre-sentence report had assessed the defendant as not posing a risk, as having a low likelihood of reoffending and that he did not have a "pro-domestic violence attitude".

As well as sentencing the defendant to community service, the judge imposed a two year restraining order barring Gillespie from contacting the victim or encouraging anyone to contact her on his behalf.

He also barred Gillespie from going within 200 metres of her home and from setting up any account on any social media website in her name.

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