PSNI officer pleads guilty to stealing almost £53k from Northern Ireland Court Service
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 the 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 re-arraigned 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 are 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 Gordon Kerr QC said he would adjourn the confiscation proceedings until a later date and would pass sentence next month.
Releasing Stronge on continuing bail, Judge Kerr QC warned him: "Do not take that as an indication of the likely sentence in this case." Following Stronge’s guilty plea, the judge then formally discharged the jury in the 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 Frank 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 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."