Retired footballer Keith Gillespie escaped jail today when a judge ordered him to complete 100 hours of community service for three breaches of a non-molestation order.
Freeing 39-year-old Gillespie 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 the court actively considered the possibility regarding a custodial sentence," said Judge Trainor.
He had previously heard how Gillespie repeatedly telephoned and texted his ex-partner and even posted a "personal photograph" of her online, leading the former professional footballer to plead guilty to three separate breaches of a court imposed non-molestation order on dates in December last year, and January and February this year.
Making a plea in mitigation, solicitor Darren 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".
Today 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 "apologises" 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 ex-partner, going within 200 metres of her 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 that probation had assessed Gillespie as not posing a risk, as a low likelihood of re-offending and someone who does not have a "pro-domestic violence attitude".
Outside the court Gillespie declined to comment.