Belfast Telegraph

Former Manchester United star Keith Gillespie admits breaching anti-stalking order

By Paul Higgins

Retired football star Keith Gillespie repeatedly telephoned and texted his ex-partner and even posted a "personal photograph" of her online, a judge has heard.

Solicitor Darren Duncan told Newtownards Magistrates Court the 39-year-old former professional footballer was pleading 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 outlined how following the breakdown of their relationship, Gillespie's ex-partner was granted a temporary non-molestation order on December 6 last year but that within hours of police officers serving it on the retired Premiership star, Gillespie texted her three times.

The lawyer conceded 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." But she added that the injured party was "very concerned regarding the defendant's course of action and she felt harassed by his behaviour".

The next breach happened on January 21 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".

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, he said he had no explanation for them and denied making them.

The last breach came on February 25 when, having heard that his former partner had begun a new relationship, 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 confirmed to Deputy District Judge Gerald Trainor there was no allegation of physical violence in the relationship, but rather it was Gillespie's unwanted contact which led to the non-molestation order, submitting that his breaches were "fairly benign".

When asked what income Gillespie currently had, Mr Duncan confirmed that he was a retired professional footballer with "no current work" and that his convictions will have a "serious impact".

Revealing that Gillespie had a book due for release soon, the solicitor said he hoped to get some commentary work at the forthcoming World Cup.

Although he claimed Gillespie had now "come to terms" with matters and had taken the proper steps to initiate contact with his son, Judge Trainor asked: "How can the court be satisfied that it won't happen again? He walks out of here today with these convictions but he doesn't seem to have got the message."

The judge said his "primary concern" was protecting the victim because "this is domestic violence, there's no point in saying it is not;, it is."

"The court had to be satisfied that he won't do it again and that she can be at peace," said Judge Trainor, adding that while he would not be sending Gillespie to jail, he would be imposing "a sentence that will be hanging over his head to reinforce in his mind he will have to leave her alone".

Adjourning the case until next month for probation pre-sentence reports, the judge told Gillespie to "co-operate" with the Probation Service to "expose the entire background".

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