The £170,000 strippergram
Force criticised over cost of arresting dancer 22 times for impersonating a policeman. Jonathan Brown reports
Wednesday 21 January 2009
In keeping with his exotic stage name of Eros, Stuart Kennedy's working wardrobe boasts a cornucopia of outfits which have helped enliven many a hen party since he took on the job of part-time strippergram to pay his way through college two years ago.
The 25-year-old genetics student from Aberdeen University can play the fantasy fireman, serve as a "buff" butler, sexy soldier or even a revealing James Bond. But it is his portrayal of a peeling policeman, Sergeant Eros, which has placed him unwillingly at the centre of an extraordinary spat between the real-life boys in blue and their political overlords.
Last week the latest case to be brought against the young scientist for impersonating a police officer collapsed in court after the Crown Office unexpectedly dropped the charges against him.
It was the 22nd time Mr Kennedy had appeared before the bench since his first arrest in March 2007 and he has spent 123 hours in police custody. Since his first brush with the law he has faced charges including possession of an offensive weapon – his truncheon and a fake CS spray – and allegedly fitting a flashing light to his car.
But so far none of the cases brought against him have yielded a successful prosecution and with two further court dates pending, there is mounting anger over claims that the legal actions have cost some £170,000 of public money and have risked turning the police in and around his native Aberdeen into a laughing stock.
The latest followed his arrest while driving home from Aberdeen's Tiger Tiger club dressed in full uniform. He said he had been forced to flee the nightspot fully clothed after being threatened by an angry boyfriend.
Yesterday the Assistant Chief Constable of Grampian Police, Colin Menzies, was staunchly defending his force's treatment of Mr Kennedy, insisting it had a "duty to investigate all instances when reports of alleged criminal behaviour are received". He said: "I am, however, extremely disappointed that the force and our officers have come in for such criticism when I believe they have acted proportionately and with the greater interests of the community we serve at heart throughout."
It is particularly embarrassing timing for Grampian Police, which must recruit 30 fewer officers this year because of a £781,000 gap in funding. Richard Baker, Labour's Justice spokesman, said local people were growing "sick" of the saga of Eros. "I don't see this as serving effectively as a deterrent and people regard this more as ludicrous than as a serious matter," he said.
Bill Aitken MSP, the Conservatives' justice spokesman, said it was time to stop. "This is a classic instance of time being wasted unnecessarily," he commented.
As far as Eros himself is concerned, the notoriety is getting in the way of what was a lucrative money-spinner. For £115, his customers can enjoy five minutes of play-acting as a policeman – complete with full body armour and handcuffs – before settling down to the main event, a 20-minute striptease in which he hides his modesty with the assistance only of his (fake) police cap. Afterwards he poses for photographs.
Mr Kennedy said he had developed the strippergram role over the years. "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 nightmare," he said. So intense is the interest in his act now that he has been forced to hire his own "crisis management specialist", Caroline Weintz, to help him deal with the unexpected situation.
She has accused Grampian Police of issuing "misleading" statements by claiming he has been reported by members of the public concerned at his realistic mode of dress and is calling for an inquiry.
Mr Kennedy believes he may have become an unwitting target for police officers looking to settle a score, though he says he will not give up his routine even though it threatens his future – fully-clothed – employment prospects.
"In relation to the case which was thrown out on Friday, I was held in police custody for 39 hours even though I had, and still have, no convictions. I can only assume that the decision by Grampian Police to hold me was malicious. I have no doubt that they were trying to intimidate me after they had been made to look foolish as a result of my first high-profile arrest," he said.
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