PSNI officer admits £53,000 theft
Money warrants belonging to Court Service taken over three-year period
A PSNI officer has pleaded guilty to stealing almost £53,000 in money warrants belonging to the Northern Ireland Court Service.
Constable Bryan Thomas Stronge (53), whose address was given as c/o Tennent Street police station in west Belfast, was due to go on trial at Belfast Crown Court on a single charge of theft.
On Monday a jury was sworn in to hear the case before Judge Gordon Kerr QC, who had told them that the "prosecution allege he is guilty of stealing in excess of £60,000" belonging to the Court Service over a three-year period.
But yesterday defence counsel Frank O'Donoghue QC asked that his client be rearraigned on an amended bill of indictment.
Standing in the dock flanked by two prison officers, Stronge replied "guilty" when the new charge of stealing £52,878.63 was put to him.
The court heard the offences were committed on dates between January 1, 2009 and April 1, 2012.
Mr O'Donoghue QC told the court that a number of medical reports on family members along with a pre-sentence report would need to be completed before sentence could be passed. "He currently cares for his elderly parents and his partner suffers from cancer. It will take about six weeks to prepare those reports," he said.
Prosecution lawyer Rosemary Walsh said that confiscation proceedings were to be commenced to recover the money. But Mr O'Donoghue told the court that the confiscation proceedings may not be necesary as Stronge intended to "make restitution in full" of all the monies he had stolen.
Judge Kerr said he would adjourn the confiscation proceedings until a later date and would pass sentence next month.
Releasing Stronge on continuing bail, Judge Kerr warned him: "Do not take that as an indication of the likely sentence in this case." No details of how the theft was committed were opened in court yesterday.
But at a previous hearing the court heard that money warrants, which may be issued for non-payment of fines, can be processed by police before the funds are then transferred to the Court Service.
At that hearing Mr O'Donoghue QC said he had retained the services of a forensic accountant to examine "how the money was processed from Antrim Road PSNI station before going to the Court Service".
Mr O'Donoghue QC added: "My client denies taking the money. My client is saying: 'It wasn't me'. Where the money went to, well, that's a mystery."