Paul Gascoigne given restraining order for harassing ex-girlfriend
Former England footballer Paul Gascoigne has been fined and made subject to a restraining order after he pleaded guilty to sending a series of abusive tweets, phone calls and messages to his ex-girlfriend.
The 48-year-old also pleaded guilty at Bournemouth Magistrates' Court to the common assault by beating of "paparazzi" photographer Steven Shepherd and damaging his glasses after spotting him "secretly" taking shots of him.
Gascoigne admitted harassing Amanda Thomas, his girlfriend of five years, during a two-week period in March following their split at the end of last year.
The couple met after Gascoigne moved to the Bournemouth area where he underwent rehab treatment for his alcoholism.
Gascoigne, who now lives in Poole, sent a number of foul-mouthed and threatening messages and Tweets accusing Miss Thomas of being a "slag" after she began a new relationship with Andrew Stone, another photographer who works with Mr Shepherd.
The defendant's solicitor, Gavin Harris, told the court that Gascoigne had felt harassed by the pair of photographers which had caused him to "crack" under the pressure.
District Judge Stephen Nicholls sentenced Gascoigne to a community order for 12 months with a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement. He was issued with a restraining order for two years prohibiting him from contacting Miss Thomas or making comments or posting material about her on social media.
Judge Nicholls warned Gascoigne, who wore a dark suit and grey shirt with no tie, that if he breached the restraining order he could face up to five years in prison.
Gascoigne was also fined £100 for the harassment and ordered to pay £235 court costs and £1,000 compensation to Miss Thomas, £100 to Mr Shepherd, £200 for the broken glasses as well as a £60 victim surcharge.
Judge Nicholls told Gascoigne: "The harassment is aggravated by your use of Twitter, you were aware you have many followers on Twitter and as a result of the harassment it spread to many people. You wouldn't know how people would respond and gave no thought to how people would respond."
Lee Turner, prosecuting, told the court the relationship between Gascoigne and Miss Thomas had ended at the end of last year and she had begun a new relationship with Mr Stone.
On March 16, 2015, Gascoigne telephoned Miss Thomas at a Post Office shop where she works in Bournemouth.
Mr Turner said that Miss Thomas told the defendant that she did not want to be contacted again but Gascoigne went on to send her text messages on eight occasions in the following days.
He added that on March 20, Gascoigne sent a "series of abusive Tweets" including one post saying: "I am going to f*** him over".
Mr Turner said: "He refers directly to Miss Thomas saying she is a 'slag', 'she has done me over, I do not know why she works, she makes money from opening her legs' and he went on to make references about Mr Stone.
"As a result of those Tweets, it encouraged other persons using Twitter which led to further harassment of Miss Thomas."
He added "She was alarmed and distressed at their content. Mr Stone telephoned Mr Gascoigne asking him to stop, however the abusive Tweets continued."
Mr Turner said that the next day Gascoigne called Miss Thomas and told her: "I am going to destroy you, I am going to hammer you, I am going to come into the Post Office tomorrow."
He said that Gascoigne turned up at her place of work, "causing a scene" and started shouting her name. He then sent a further Tweet saying: "If they do not sack the cow I am going to sue the Post Office."
Gascoigne was later arrested after Miss Thomas made a complaint to the police.
Mr Turner said: "Miss Thomas says that her biggest concern was about losing her job and she did feel harassed by this course of conduct."
The assault against photographer Steven Shepherd happened as Gascoigne had been signing autographs and having his picture taken with fans as he sat at a cafe in Bournemouth town centre on June 16.
He confronted the photographer and demanded he hand over his camera's memory card, causing him a one-inch graze to his head and damage to his prescription glasses in the process, Mr Turner said.
He added: "Mr Shepherd says after he took some photos, he was walking away and suddenly something struck him on the head and somebody grabbed his glasses from him."
Mr Turner said that the victim said that Gascoigne said to "give him the f****** pictures" and Mr Shepherd handed over two memory cards and he went on to report the incident to the police.
Mr Harris said that his client had been in a long-term relationship with Miss Thomas dating back five years.
He said: "However this relationship began to deteriorate when paparazzi photographers Andrew Stone and Steven Shepherd came into contact with them.
"These photographers have consistently followed Mr Gascoigne causing him distress which some would say is akin to harassment."
Mr Harris said that the stress by this media attention was "exacerbated by the phone-hacking scandal".
He said that Gascoigne was prescribed "extremely strong psychiatric medication as a direct result of the behaviour of the Press towards him.
"He feels pressure was coming at him from all sides and he cracked. He was unwell at the time, he has recovered and is regretful of his actions towards Miss Thomas."
Mr Harris added that at the time of his questioning by police: "He had reached breaking point, he was in such an emotional state he could not be interviewed and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act."
In relation to the assault offence, Mr Harris said that Gascoigne had been happy to sign autographs and have his picture taken with fans but he then realised he was "being secretly photographed by Mr Shepherd".
He said: "He then went over to Mr Shepherd to ask him to hand over the memory cards so he could prove he was being harassed by this paparazzi photographer.
"You may realise it was no coincidence it was Mr Stone who was on hand to take photographs and gave these to the police."
He added: "It was a brazen attempt to provoke Mr Gascoigne so valuable photographs could be taken. He clearly felt provoked into the assault but he had no intent to cause injury or damage."
Mr Harris said: "He was consistently followed through his treatment, although he has gone for one year without alcohol the actions of others have caused him serious anxiety."
A further charge of harassment against Gascoigne in relation to Mr Stone was dropped by the prosecution.
Gascoigne was one of the most talented footballers of his generation, playing for Newcastle, Tottenham, Lazio and Rangers as well as the national team, but has been plagued by illness since his retirement.
The court heard that Gascoigne denied having an "intimate" relationship with Miss Thomas and also that he was considering moving from the area. The hearing was also told that there were no mental health concerns regarding Gascoigne and his medication had been for stress.
On returning to court after the lunchtime adjournment, Gascoigne signed an autograph for a fan and shook hands with well wishers.
After sentencing the former footballer did not speak to reporters and was driven away in a waiting car.
Mr Harris said: "Mr Gascoigne would like to thank the court and furthermore he has made great strides in putting his life back on track in the past year and he would appreciate the opportunity to continue in his recovery. We do not wish to say anything further about the charges faced today."