A MALE stripper accused of possessing offensive weapons while he "masqueraded" as a policeman was dramatically cleared of the charges against him yesterday.
In a decision described as a victory for common sense, a sheriff dismissed the charges against Stuart Kennedy, 24, who uses the name "Sergeant Eros" while performing his police stripogram act at hen parties and other functions.
MSPs described the case as an "extraordinary waste of time and money". It is estimated that at least 2,500 in public funds has been spent on the case.
Sheriff Kenneth Stewart told Aberdeen Sheriff Court, "It is not commonsense which is on trial here," as he ruled Mr Kennedy had a reasonable excuse for having two police batons in his possession - as props for his act.
Later, Mr Kennedy, who co-owns Alpha Male Strippers and Kissagram Services, said: "I can't comprehend how anyone could have ever thought that this [case] was in the public interest.
"It is a shame that a few officers with uniform egos can bring a force into disrepute and waste so much police time and that of the already overstrained justice system."
Mr Kennedy still faces two further trials on similar charges.
Grampian Police and prosecutors had alleged Mr Kennedy - who has spent 41 hours in police custody and appeared in court eight times in connection with the matter - was guilty of offensive weapons charges. This was because his act involved having two police-style batons and an unidentified spray.
He was arrested on 17 March outside Aberdeen's Paramount Bar after he has spotted in the street by two female police officers as he was about to do his act. He was wearing a police uniform and utility belt, which contained the batons.
He went on trial at Aberdeen Sheriff Court accused of three charges of possessing an offensive weapon in a public place - the charges related to a side-handled baton, a friction-lock baton and an unidentified spray.
But after legal submissions by his solicitor, Iain McGregor, at the conclusion of the Crown evidence, Sheriff Stewart upheld the argument that there was no case to answer and acquitted Mr Kennedy on all three charges.
Mr McGregor submitted that Mr Kennedy had been legally entitled to have the batons in his possession, provided he had reasonable excuse for doing so. The two batons, he said, were "merely props" in his act as a male stripper.
Mr Kennedy, who was originally accused of impersonating a police officer, a charges that was later dropped by the Crown, said: "Finally, common sense has prevailed.
"I am just a guy trying to do a job to the best of my ability. I haven't done anything wrong, and anyone with common sense can see this.
"It makes me angry and sad how much public resources have been wasted prosecuting - correction, persecuting - a stripper who uses a police uniform and props."
He went on: "No-one likes to be imitated for entertainment purposes, but just because something annoys a police officer does not make it a crime. In fact, here there is no crime whatsoever."
He said the two officers who detained him only after he had performed at the Paramount Bar had been acting "with sincere intentions". But he attacked their superior officers for their handling of the case.
"I think I've made them look silly," he said.
Mr Kennedy, who works as a strippogram to help finance his studies at Aberdeen University where he is reading genetics, still faces two further trials in February in relation to similar charges.
He claims to have already spent a total of 41 hours in police custody, including two nights in the cells at the headquarters of Grampian Police, in relation to the series of charges against him.
He said: " I don't see any point is pursuing the other charges against me, but my understanding of the justice system is that, because they have reached this stage, they will have to proceed and these other charges will be hanging over my head for another few months."
The case comes at a time when debate over the use of police resources is particularly sensitive.
Bill Aitken, the Scottish Conservatives' justice spokesman, said: "Sheriff Stewart has got this one entirely correct. It was a very wise decision and I really have to wonder why so much money was spent on a fairly trivial matter which could have offended only the most sensitive of people.
"In this case, the batons were part of his get up as a strippogram. I think the Crown have to recognise that cases of this type are not likely to succeed."
Brian Adam, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen North, said: "It does seem an extraordinary waste of time and money.
"Unless this chap looked remarkably like a policeman and was behaving as if he were policeman, I don't the public should be particularly concerned and I don't think those who are looking after the interests of the public should be overly concerned about his activities either.
"I suspect there will be many officers in Grampian Police feeling very foolish today."
A spokeswoman for Grampian Police, asked to respond to Mr Kennedy's claims, said: "[We] are aware that an individual was in court today, but until we can establish the facts of exactly what happened in court, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment."
A spokesman for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: "We take weapon- related offences extremely seriously and are satisfied that the decision to raise proceedings in this case was entirely appropriate, and in the public interest.
"It is entirely and appropriately a matter for the sheriff to determine the outcome, having seen and heard the evidence given in court. We note the sheriff's decision in this case."
He added: "There remain other live proceedings against Stuart Kennedy, and it would be inappropriate for us to make any comment on these cases."
'I asked two bobbies and they thought it was hilarious'
STUART Kennedy has been working as a part-time stripper on the Aberdeen pub and club circuit for over a year to help pay his way through university.
He claims to be a former member of the community council in Old Aberdeen and a former member of the city crime prevention panel.
His appearances as a police officer, under the stage name "Sergeant Eros", are easily his most popular act.
However, the 24-year-old student also goes under the stage name of "James Bondage" for his appearances as a 007-style character, and he also appears as Chef Eros, Waiter Eros, in naval uniform - and as a character called the "Mad Scotsman".
He co-owns Alpha Male Strippers & Kissagram Services and appears on the hen-party circuit as well as private functions in homes throughout the North-east.
When he was first arrested in March, Mr Kennedy was wearing a police uniform he had bought from the same costume company that supplies the uniforms for the stars of television's The Bill and Holby City.
According to Mr Kennedy, he had twice contacted Grampian Police to ask for advice about using the uniform in his strip-o-gram act after he first got the police costume. "No-one ever got back to me," he claimed. "Then I just asked two bobbies on the street when I was in costume and they just thought it was hilarious.
"We swapped hats and compared equipment and stuff so I took that to mean it was a very low priority and everything was OK."
Further jokey comments by real police officers led him to believe this was the case.
Mr Kennedy added: "At one point, all I did was the police act. You are probably talking about 45-50 strips in pubs, clubs and people's homes and gardens. It was going down really well. People always ask for a police officer if they can get one.
"People sometimes do fall for it - but it's only a for a few seconds. I was never trying to deceive anybody."
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE OFFENSIVE TRUNCHEONS
THE Sergeant Eros case hinged on whether Stuart Kennedy had a reasonable excuse for being in possession of the two police-style batons.
Iain McGregor, defending, submitted that he was legally entitled to have the batons in his possession, provided he had reasonable excuse for doing so. The two batons, he said, were "merely props" in his act as a male stripper.
Mr McGregor continued: "There is no evidence, in my submission, to show intent on his (Mr Kennedy's) part to use either of these items in an offensive manner, or to cause harm or injury to anyone.
"The two items [batons] in charges one and two were being used as props in the performance being carried out by Mr Kennedy."
Ian Warburton, the depute fiscal, argued that the batons were offensive weapons and not "toys". They could not be regarded as having an innocent purpose as they were used for striking or for the purpose of defence.
Mr Warburton added that Mr Kennedy was "simply a facsimile" of a police officer.
"He is, of course, masquerading as a police officer - he is in full police uniform," he stated.
Sheriff Kenneth Stewart ruled that there was no case to answer in relation to all three charges, and found Mr Kennedy not guilty.
He told the court: "The accused is saying he had these two batons in his possession as props.
"It is not commonsense which is on trial here. What has to be decided in this case is not whether or not it was sensible for the accused to be in Bon Accord Street at 9:30 on a Saturday evening dressed as a police officer and in possession of two batons which were held to be offensive weapons. I have to consider if a crime has been committed.
"It seems to me that in all the circumstances there does exist reasonable excuse for possession of these items [the two batons]."
Prosecution fuels anger over levels of funding and broken election pledges
HOME AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
ANGER over the decision to charge and prosecute Stuart Kennedy, the stripogram, has flared at a time when the issue of police resources is firmly in the spotlight.
The Scottish Government has been at the centre of a bitter row over an SNP pre-election promise to pay for an extra 1,000 community police officers.
Police and politicians have accused Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, of betrayal after it emerged that the Scottish Government would pay for an extra 500 officers, instead of the full 1,000.
The remainder, the SNP say, will be delivered by redeploying officers from desk jobs on to frontline duties and encouraging those due to retire to stay on.
But even the latter has been received with scepticism. "Retention would not increase numbers," said David Strang, the Chief Constable of Lothian Borders, told MSPs last week.
Clive Murray, the national president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, was asked by a member of the Holyrood justice committee if there were enough police officers.
"No there's not," he said. "Invariably, demand outstrips capacity most times of the day, seven days a week."
Describing the service as "a mile wide and an inch thick," Supt Murray added: "This service tends to just absorb additional work without just saying, 'hold on, we've reached a stage where this will impact on resources'.
"The culture in the police has always been a can-do attitude. We're at a stage where you can't keep putting that additional burden on the police without an understanding of the impact on the operational core - those officers out there in communities."
Professor Arthur Midwinter, a finance expert, believes the 54 million extra funding for policing announced by the Scottish Government is not enough to hit the recruitment target and meet police pension liabilities.
The knock-on effects of an overstretched police service is being felt at all levels, officers say.
Last week, Joe Grant, the general-secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, revealed that officers were "doing the Heathrow stack with prisoners" - spending hours driving suspects around in patrol vehicles because there were not enough cells for prisoners to be held in.
And an officer in Edinburgh controversially suggested that people caught carrying drugs in the city centre should be let off so that police can spend more time patrolling the streets.