CPS Issue policy on prosecuting naturism

Of all the pictures, in all the world, this is the one we chose for a piece on nudity.

We have covered the case of Stephen Gough, the ‘naked rambler’ and his various travails with the legal system. Courtesy of CrimeLine today (18th September 2013) we saw that the CPS has issued guidance on the prosecution of naturists

It’s not, frankly, of great assistance to anyone, and is pretty much just a re-statement of the general prosecutorial policy (with a bit of common sense thrown in). 

It starts by recognising that the desire to be nude is a legitimate part of an individual’s freedom of expression that needs to be balanced against the right of the wider public to be “protected from harassment, alarm and distress”. After this, it turns to the specific offences, concentrating on s5 Public Order Act.

The gist of it is that if it is done for sexual pleasure, or there was an intent to annoy other people (especially if children are present), or this is an oft-repeated offence, then this points away towards a prosecution. In the absence of those, then it may well not be in the public interest for the individual to be prosecuted. 

Interestingly, in relation to ASBOs, the guidance says “Although naked behaviour may fit the anti-social rather than the criminal category, an ASBO carries with it the risk of an early and repeated breach followed by prosecution and ultimately imprisonment. It is questionable whether such an outcome is proportionate either in terms of the cost to the CJS or the penalty incurred. Very careful consideration needs to be given before an ASBO is sought. It should be regarded as a last resort.

Looking at Mr Gough’s case, none of the above will provide him with too much comfort as, given his lengthy history with the Criminal Justice system, it would probably indicate that a prosecution would be in the public interest.

We await to see whether it will actually make any difference …


17 thoughts on “CPS Issue policy on prosecuting naturism

  1. duncanheenand

    The guidance points to children as being included in the ‘vulnerable’ category of people due to their age, which is true by legal definition, but is disingenuous in fact in relation to nudity. There is no evidence at all that exposure to non-aggressive non-sexual nudity has any bad effect on children, and some evidence to suggest that it actually contributes to positive body image. The guidance, in pointing to children is merely using it to try to legitimise the institutional prudery which pervades The Establishment.
    Stephen Jones, the CPS’s specialist prosecutor of nudity cases in the Hampshire & Dorset area always uses the argument that ‘children might see it’, and it is a repeated failing of defence Counsel that they don’t put him to evidence to say why this would be such a bad thing.
    We can only hope that the CPS’s guidance will eventually lead to a more proportionate policing approach, as there are too many cases of police reacting with near hysteria to reports of nudity in public, whilst being too busy to deal with real crime.

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  3. Sisterhooduk

    Allegedly according to some “there is no evidence that children are harmed by nudity and there is no evidence at all that exposure to ‘non-aggressive non-sexual nudity has any bad effect on children.” Is that so, so okay then let’s just experiment with our children to find out whether or not this is correct, what happens if, as is my opinion, if it’s wrong. Too late. Net result damaged and disturbed children that can be held up as proof that the CPS were right all along. I think not.

    1. Malcolm Boura

      There is evidence that prudish societies results in considerable harm to children. There are also concrete examples of myth driven, but superficially common sense, policies regarding what is best for children resulting in immense harm. The idea that myth, assumption, and misapprehension can possibly justify criminal sanctions is absurd.

      1. @sisterhooduk

        It is not prudish to ask that people conduct themselves according to the rules of civilised society. Objecting to nudity in inappropriate places is not being a prude or priggish although such labels are frequently levelled like an accusation, goodness knows why, by those who believe we wish to see them naked when we don’t.

      2. Malcol

        That comment was strong on emotive buzz words but deficient in facts and logic.
        “Prudish”. If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it sounds like a duck, then it is most probably a duck. If it is prudish then it is prudish. Whether or not a part of society is prudish as well is a different issue. Those who are prudish all too often just assume that they have the right to impose their prudery on everyone else, despite the strong evidence of the harm that results.
        “civilised”. False assumption. Prudery is not an essential component of “civilised”.
        “inappropriate places”. Assumption. Whose definition of inappropriate?
        “those who believe we wish to see them naked” – False assumption. Nudity is no more exhibitionism than a burka is, although both can be. Most nudity is not exhibitionism but a lot of clothing is.
        “when we don’t”. A non-argument. That is like saying that people should not wear a red pullover because somebody who had no wish to see a red pullover might do so.

  4. Andrew

    Sisterhood, the family-type naturist-centre types tend to be terribly respectable, middle-class, law-abiding to the point of being boring;no threat to anybody. Types like that solo who wanders the streets are another issue, and I tend to agree with you about him, which probably worries you as much as it worries me.

    There can of course be no question of forbidding families with children wandering around with nothing on except the radio in their own homes.

  5. Sisterhooduk

    To the Malc’s… Again those who erroneously believe that we want to see them naked keep trying to label the rest of us who really really don’t want to see this with labels as if to “shame” us into agreeing with them. So here it is again, keep your clothes on in civilised society and around civilised people. And no amount of name calling such as prudish, priggish, uptight ad nauseating will change that.

  6. Andrew

    Of course that raises the question: which clothes? The veil? Could a seaside town procam its beach to be bikini-free, one piece only?

  7. Steinulf

    I wonder how many people have walked along a street and seen someone coming towards them, possibly on the other side of the road, whom they did not wish to see? what did they do? Look the other way, look in shop windows and pretend the person had not been seen? Why is the sight of Mrs Busybody down the road any different from Mr Gough from HMP?

    1. Sisterhooduk

      Well suppose I’m a teenager walking home from a friends house, football practice, Lacrosse lesson about 17:30 in the winter or at time when it’s dark early. I turn into a quiet empty suburban street. Shock horror! It’s the much maligned ‘Mrs Busybody’ full clothed and coming towards me. There is no escape I’m going to have to acknowledge her. Done, 5 minutes of chat later and I’m on my way. Same street, I’m a child or a teenager, I turn the corner. It’s dark. There is a man approaching me, or worse still he’s behind me but gaining on me, he is stark naked, is this any different to bumping it ‘Mrs Busybody you ask? Well here’s the thing, yes, it is.

      1. Malcolm Boura

        Given the state of today’s society that would be very inconsiderate, and depending on the circumstances leading up to it, sanctions probably justified. However it was not that sort of case that was causing the problems, and the guidance will not prevent prosecution in those circumstances. What the guidance should do is make police and prosecutors think a little bit before just assuming that nudity is automatically illegal.

        The law was being abused to an extent that was quite simply stupid. In one case the opening step for judicial review had to be taken before the CPS would pay attention to the defense solicitor. The law they were trying to use was completely inapplicable and eventually the case was dropped. In another case it reached court before the case was thrown out despite Parliament having carefully worded the statute so that it could not apply in the circumstances of that case. And many more examples. The effect on the victim of that sort of injustice can be devastating. Lost jobs and careers ended have resulted.

        Problems are not really fixed unless the real cause of the problem is fixed. As the Supreme Court pointed out recently it was not the tree beside the road that “caused” the death of the driver, it was the bloody stupid driving. That judgement has interesting implications for a number of statutes.

        The arguments used to justify discrimination founded on prejudice show recurring patterns. Curfews or exclusion areas for blacks, Jews, gypsies etc. because they are not trusted and may frighten people. When the Yorkshire Ripper was loose a curfew for men was demanded. Men were scary after dark. The police recommended a de-facto curfew for women. And the culprit? He was always clothed.

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