A LORRY driver caught with £17,000 worth of fake designer clothing has walked free from court.

Counterfeit Ralph Lauren T-shirts, Juicy Couture tracksuits and Ugg boots were among the items police found in the back of Steven Fitzgerald’s lorry in March 2008.

Fitzgerald, 28, told jurors he bought the goods in good faith from a man known only as “Gypo John” and never pushed him about their origin or authenticity.

At Basildon Crown Court, recorder David Whittaker summed Fitzgerald’s explanation up as “ridiculous”.

However, he did not jail him and instead sentenced him to 175 hours of unpaid work and told him to pay £1,500 prosecutions costs.

He said: “These companies deserve the protection of their names and not have them ripped-off the way you have done here.

“I’m not going to send you to prison, but I could have done. If you come before these courts again on similar matters it is likely you will go to jail.”

Fitzgerald of Rachael Clarke Close, Corringham, denied four counts of making gain by dealing in goods likely to be mistaken for registered trademark goods – but was found guilty following a four-day trial.

Sarah Hannah, mitigating, said her client had two young children with a steady partner and they are expecting a third.

She said he had no previous convictions and runs a lorry firm.

Fitzgerald did not want to comment to the Echo after the hearing.