Police officer Bryan Stronge given three months to pay back stolen £53k
A policeman who stole more than £52,000 of warrant money from a Belfast PSNI station has had his sentence deferred for three months to allow him to pay back the amount he pocketed.
Bryan Thomas Stronge, who at the time was station constable at Tennent Street, admitted stealing a total of £52,878.63.
The 53-year old, from Coastguard Lane, Groomsport, appeared at Belfast Crown Court, where Judge Gordon Kerr QC deferred sentencing until April.
The court heard Stronge planned to pay back the money using cash from his pension and the sale of his house.
Judge Kerr agreed to give the ex-policeman time to do this before deciding his final sentence.
At a hearing last month Crown prosecutor Rosemary Walsh said that from the end of 2009 to early 2012 Stronge "was retrieving warrant monies from the safe but treating the money as his own".
Ms Walsh said Stronge began his police career in 1987, but in later years he was assigned as station constable at Tennent Street due to a traffic accident.
Part of this role was dealing with money warrants paid by defendants, and Ms Walsh said that when Stronge began the payment system was paper-based.
This involved the police officer who had executed the warrant issuing a receipt to the defendant, then placing the warrant and money in a safe at the station.
Stronge would empty the safe, and while the warrant details were entered into a form, the money was lodged initially at the Northern Bank, but later with the District Finance Office.
In March 2010 the system changed and all the details of warrants and their statuses were dealt with electronically through a system that could be accessed by both the PSNI and the Court Service. Despite this, money was still paid into the safe and was emptied by Stronge.
Stronge's offending began to emerge in May 2011 when it was realised that two warrants were shown to be paid but the money had not been received by the Court Service.
Stronge claimed neither the paperwork nor the money could be located at Tennent Street. In a witness statement in October 2011 he suggested "other ways that could have resulted in the loss of the warrant money".
The prosecutor revealed that by early 2012 it was "clear that there were a large number of outstanding money warrants where payment had not reached the Court Service".
An investigation found 374 outstanding warrants from November 2009 to February 2012, amounting to just over £53,000.
Ms Walsh said Stronge "was the only person who had responsibility at Tennent Street for monies that were paid into the safe, and no one else would have handled the cash".
Stronge's barrister Frank O'Donoghoe QC said he had lost his career, long-term partner, home and a vast majority of his pension thanks to his actions.
Mr O'Donoghoe apologised on behalf of his client "to anyone who was connected to his case".
He said Stronge was an officer of "considerable experience and lengthy service" and most of his 28-year working record was "impeccable and loyal in the midst of the Troubles and beyond".
Mr O'Donoghoe added that the offending was because of "crippling debts, and the immediate access to very small sums of money, which was a temptation too much".
Following yesterday's deferral Stronge was released on continuing bail and ordered to return to Belfast Crown Court on April 8 for sentencing.