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Gills FC fan who avoided jail for breaking into Priestfield Stadium appears in court for driving offences

A so-called Gills fan who once raided the club's stadium and stole a safe has this week told a judge that the court's penalty was "the best thing" to happen to him.

Sam Turner had been spared jail for the night-time burglary at the Priestfield ground in January 2021.

Sam Turner was spared jail for the night-time burglary at the Priestfield ground in January 2021. Picture: Facebook
Sam Turner was spared jail for the night-time burglary at the Priestfield ground in January 2021. Picture: Facebook

Dressed in a Gillingham FC shirt and scarf, he nabbed alcohol, a lawnmower, cash and ledgers before returning to drag the cumbersome money vault down several flights of stairs - damaging walls in the process - and back to his home in nearby Gordon Road.

With the help of CCTV footage - as well as the scrape marks left in the road surface - police tracked down the dad-of-two to find the open safe in his garden and an angle grinder on the ground.

Nothing of great value was said to have been stolen from it, however, and old club trophies were left behind on the chairman's desk.

Turner, now 40, later admitted burglary and was given a 24-month jail term suspended for two years, with an alcohol abstinence monitoring condition.

He had also kept his freedom after being caught at the wheel of a Ford Transit in Gillingham in September 2020 while more than three times the legal limit for cannabis.

For that offence, he was given another suspended sentence order (SSO) as well as a three-year driving ban.

Sam Turner taking the safe
Sam Turner taking the safe

But having found himself back in the dock at Maidstone Crown Court this week for "a stupid blip", Turner revealed that his punishment for the Priestfield break-in had helped him to kick his booze habit into the long grass.

In a letter to the judge, the road worker explained he was now 18-months sober, regularly attending Alcoholics' Anonymous, and been working for the past two years to support his two children.

Apologising, Turner wrote: "The alcohol treatment and tag was the best thing that ever happened to me."

Of his personal progress, he added: "I wanted to thank the court really because I don't think I would have done it without the support I received."

A report from the probation service also backed up his assertions, stating he had completed the required hours of unpaid work and rehabilitation sessions, and continued to express remorse for the burglary as well as "a desire to lead a law-abiding life".

The court heard on Wednesday (April 24) that the "blip" came in November 2022 when, despite being subject to the lengthy road ban and with two suspended jail terms hanging over his head, Turner decided to drive to Brighton to visit a friend.

Turner broke into Priestfield Stadium. Picture: @Julian_KPI
Turner broke into Priestfield Stadium. Picture: @Julian_KPI

He was stopped by police and subsequently pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified, without insurance, and breaching the two SSOs.

But despite having fallen foul of the law since 1998 with previous convictions including violent disorder and robbery, Judge Julian Smith said he did not want "to ruin" the defendant's more recent and "significant" efforts having "taken the chance" previously given to him by the court.

Deciding that a 12-month community order was the appropriate penalty for his "appalling and stupid blip", he told Turner: "It's good to know that occasionally there's a way back for people who find themselves in impossible situations.

"The last thing I want to do when you have put all this behind you and appear to be moving forward is to knock you off track.

"You made a stupid mistake. You are too mature and with too much responsibility to be indulging in such daftness."

Turner was ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and pay fines totalling £550, court costs of £340 and a £114 victim surcharge.

He was also disqualified from driving for two years and five months.

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