A police farce – hounding stripper leaves taxpayer with £170,000 bill

STRIPPING off his fake police uniform in front of cheering women seemed like a good way to pay Stuart Kennedy's university costs.

But the genetics graduate's act as Sergeant Eros, the perky police officer, has become arresting for all the wrong reasons.

The 25-year-old has repeatedly fallen foul of the law for impersonating a police officer, and last week saw the latest case against him collapse in court after prosecutors reviewed the evidence.

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There is now growing anger over the estimated 170,000 spent in police, prosecution and court costs in a case that has not resulted in a single conviction.

His striptease show came to the attention of the Grampian Police's finest in March 2007, after officers saw him outside a pub where he had performed.

He was interviewed at a police station and had his "highly realistic" costume confiscated.

The episode ended with him being charged for impersonating a police officer and three counts of possessing an offensive weapon – two batons and a fake CS spray.

Since then, he has been arrested or detained six times and appeared in court on 22 occasions. Yet he has gone on trial only once and has yet to be convicted of a single offence.

Mr Kennedy said that he developed his striptease act as a way to help pay his way through university.

"I was a dancer when I was younger and a choreographer I worked with suggested it would be a good way to make some money. The hours were great as I could study during the week and I thought it would be fun. But instead it has turned into a personal nightmare."

His act, which costs about 115, sees him perform an initial five-minute introductory "police" routine, followed by a 20-minute striptease during which he is able to preserve his modesty thanks to a carefully positioned police hat. Partygoers can then pose with him for photographs.

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But it is what happens after Mr Kennedy's show that has landed him in hot water – and left taxpayers with a mounting bill.

The case that collapsed on Friday was triggered when a police officer saw Sergeant Eros driving home from a show in Aberdeen's Tiger Tiger nightclub.

He was wearing his full police costume, which is technically a breach of the law. But it later emerged that Mr Kennedy was forced to flee the club after being threatened.

Sergeant Eros had already been cleared of impersonating a police officer during an earlier trial, a verdict that the Crown Office later unsuccessfully attempted to overturn.

Another case collapsed after prosecutors decided at the last minute not to take the case to trial. Two more trials are pending – meaning the saga of Sgt Eros will run for some time yet.

The estimated 170,000 bill incurred so far includes prosecution costs of 63,000, court costs of 14,000, 20,000 spent on legal aid and 11,000 on police time to arrest Mr Kennedy and wait in court.

Alan Donnelly, local councillor and member of Grampian Police Board, has written to Colin McKerracher, Chief Constable of the force, to condemn its handling of Mr Kennedy's case. "As far as I am concerned, it is not the place of Grampian Police to chase around after a young lad who is merely exercising his right to work as an entertainer in a lawful way," he said.

"Grampian Police's job is to combat violent crime and other criminal activity in the city and to use public resources appropriately."

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Caroline Weintz, who acts as a press officer for Mr Kennedy, added:

"It is time the chief constable was held to account over the actions of his officers. This is a complete waste of public money and resources."

No-one from Grampian Police was available for comment yesterday.

So who's to blame for the Sgt Eros debacle?

MOST of the ire surrounding the Sergeant Eros saga has been targeted at Grampian Police, which has arrested or detained the stripper on no fewer than seven occasions.

Some front-line officers on the force stand accused of harassment.

Mr Kennedy believes that, thanks to his well-publicised brushes with the law, officers keep targeting him to make sure something sticks.

"I do believe many of the police officers are genuinely professional but a lot of people are against me," he says. "I think some of the police have seen the bad publicity and want to get a conviction to prove I've done something wrong."

Mr Kennedy's assertion – if true – casts blame at higher-ranking officers who are likely to oversee arrests.

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As chief constable in overall charge of the force, Colin McKerracher has been held responsible for the massive bill run-up pursuing Sergeant Eros.

However, staff in the local procurator fiscal's office have also been accused of drawing out the saga – by bringing cases against Sgt Eros only to drop them months later.

Many people legitimately point out that – as it is indeed an offence, under the Criminal Justice Scotland Act, to impersonate a police officer – Mr Kennedy has to shoulder some of the responsibility. He has persisted in an act that at the very least leaves him vulnerable to arrest.

However, he is determined to continue with the controversial routine.

"I have 15 costumes – the best is probably the soldier because the stuff is cheap. But I'm going to keep doing the police officer because I know I'm not doing anything wrong," he said.

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