No jail for bar manager who stole £65,000 from social club and made up ‘drug debt’ story

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MEMBERS of a social club whose thieving bar manager stole £65,000 have said it is an ‘absolute joke’ he was handed a suspended sentence.  

Shamed Damien Bannon, 42, stole the cash from The Solent Social Club’s accounts - despite five generation of his family having been members of the club in Lee-on-the-Solent.

Damien Bannon, 42, of Richmond Road, Lee-on-the-Solent, admitted stealing 65,391.82 from The Solent Social Club.'Picture: (140219-950)

Damien Bannon, 42, of Richmond Road, Lee-on-the-Solent, admitted stealing 65,391.82 from The Solent Social Club.'Picture: (140219-950)

He told club members it was to bail out his son from a drug debt but he admitted this was a lie after judge William Ashworth told him to prove his story in court.

At Portsmouth Crown Court Bannon confessed he took the cash to fund his gambling addict – not to pay off violent drug dealers putting his family at risk.

READ MORE: Courtroom drama as Lee-on-the-Solent bar manager admits ‘drug debt’ excuse for £65,000 theft was pack of lies

Bannon of Richmond Road, Lee-on-the-Solent, admitted theft of £65,391.82 but only has to pay back £10,000 in compensation.

People from the club attended the sentencing today and were left fuming at the punishment handed out.

One member, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It is an absolute joke. He just got paid £65,000 to do some litter picking and he has set back our club more than four years.’

Addressing Bannon, judge Ashworth said: ‘When the club confronted you, you gave them a long and rehearsed account.

‘[Your son] had found himself in debt to dangerous drug dealers.

‘That is a fiction. You retold that to police, to the probation service and to the court previously.’

Bannon held the position of bar manager and the court heard he stole the money between December 2017 and May 2018.

The truth only came out following a number of hearings. But judge Ashworth said: ‘That is for other people to deal with. I deal with you on the basis of what you have done.’

Bannon was sentenced to an 18-month jail term suspended for two years, and has to complete 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days and 150 hours of unpaid work.

He shook his head when the judge asked if he had savings or assets in order to pay the money back. Judge Ashworth ordered him to pay back £10,000 within two years.

READ MORE: Portsmouth stroke victim devastated after £2,000 mobility scooter stolen from outside of home

Defence barrister Daniel Reilly told the court his client intended to pay the whole amount back to the club.

Mr Reilly said: ‘[Bannon] said to me it may take the rest of my life to pay it back but if that is how long it takes then that is how long it takes.’

The judge said the promise may go some way into ‘washing away the stain’ Bannon had left on the club that his family had been members of for five generations.