Today in Edinburgh, a learned decision was taken by two full time judges and a temporary judge sitting in the Criminal Appeal Court. They ruled that a sensible sheriff in Aberdeen had indeed been correct when he decided to throw out charges of carrying offensive weapons without lawful excuse against a student of the University of Aberdeen who worked part-time as a stripper. His character was Sergeant Eros, a Police Sergeant.
Originally the student, Stuart Kennedy, had also faced charges of impersonating a police officer, but these were later dropped by the Procurator Fiscal. The story is a long and very costly one.
It all started in March 2007 when Sergeant Eros (a.k.a Stuart Kennedy) was waiting outside an Aberdeen bar in preparation for his routine. Two police officers in plain clothes spotted him and asked if he needed any help. He told them that he was a stripper. They decided to take him in for questioning, but not before watching him perform his routine.
In April 2007 it was reported that Stuart Kennedy had been charged in relation to wearing a police uniform and equipment in public. At the time, Mr Kennedy told the BBC that he believed this was “not in the public’s interest” and judging by the amount of negative publicity it caused for the crown, neither did the public. He was still, at this time, unsure I it was to go to Court.
The impersonation charges were dropped in May 2007 when he appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court for the first time.
In November 2007, Mr Kennedy went on Trial at Aberdeen Sheriff Court. PC Fiona Duncan told the court about the encounter and how she and her colleague went into the bar to make sure they “could keep an eye on him”.
On the story goes and the charges relating to the weapons were thrown out by the Sheriff. Sheriff Kenneth Stewart said (at the time): “There is no evidence at all which even hints at the suggestion that he had any intention of causing harm or injury to other persons.”
The Crown announced it was to appeal this decision to the Appeal Court in Edinburgh (the highest and only place a Criminal Appeal in Scotland can go) on the grounds that Mr Kennedy’s work did not constitute a reasonable excuse.
Advocate depute Brian McConnachie QC, for the Crown, had argued that if the Sheriff Stewart’s ruling went unchallenged it could create a legal loophole for carrying weapons.
He went on to say: “We could have ninjas carrying nunchaku sticks or going [to fancy dress parties] as a ned carrying a flick knife.” (for those of you not familiar with the word ned, it’s the same concept as Chav)
Neither Kennedy nor his lawyers were at a hearing last week. However, it didn’t matter because today Lord Johnston, Lord Reed and temporary judge Gordon Nicholson QC announced that the Crown’s appeal was to fail.
The full judgement containing all their reasons will be available soon and I will link to it and comment upon it when it becomes available. As the Crown quite rightly said, nobody can comment with any authority until having read the full judgement of the court.
However, what I will say just now (and it is something I’ve said about this case all along) is that this was a complete waste of taxpayers money in a prosecution that should never have taken place.