People’s reaction to the naked body in today modern world is strangely varied. Many people will see it as something to marvel, while a lot will squeal and squirm and shout and scream that it should be covered up. Being frank about it, it is disappointing and strange that people mentioned latterly should react like this, seeing how every human will either come as one or the other, all be it in different shapes sizes and designs. Normally when people choose to bare all and become naked, they do so either at home, at a club, on a beach or in remote countryside, away from all the hassle and fuss created by some members of the community.
Some folks however choose to live naked all the time and this according to the laws of the UK is not illegal. Well technically it isn’t, there is no law against being nude in public in the United Kingdom. Simple nudity is not illegal. However, using nudity to “harass, alarm or distress” others is an offence.Two people over the last 15/20 years have tried to test this out. The first one was Vincent Bethell who up until around 2003 campaigned for naked rights, since then the mantle has been taken over by a guy known as the “Naked Rambler”.
Stephen Gough who is 53, is a former Royal Marine from Eastleigh in Hampshire. After returning from Vancouver in 2002 he decided that in mid-2003 he would start his first naked walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
After starting on 16th June he was arrested in and around St. Ives twice, appeared on TV, was attacked by thugs, before being arrested twice in Newquay , all this before he had even got out of Cornwall. He did make use of country footpaths, bridleways, byways and the like avoiding towns where possible,even so this didn’t stop the police harassment. Further arrests in Wellington (Somerset) and Hay on Wye (Powys, Wales) didn’t deter him and he made it to the second last village in England before being arrested again. Then disaster struck as this Times news story reported.
“A man trying to walk the length of the UK dressed only in his walking boots has reportedly been sent back to the start of his journey by police. Steve Gough, 44, from Eastleigh, Hampshire, was 10 days short of John O’Groats when he was arrested by police in Scotland, says the Times. Despite many brushes with the law under his belt, this time it was discovered he had breached his bail conditions in Cornwall. So Mr Gough was taken back to the county where he began his trip on 16 June.”
Continuing the walk later that month, he was arrested in Inverness in September 2003 for breach of the peace, where he was place on remand. After being released he finally arrived in John O’Groats on 22nd September 2004.
The BBC reported the arrival :-
“The man dubbed the naked rambler has finally completed his marathon trek from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Stephen Gough, 44, from Hampshire, finished his walk after seven months, much of which was spent in jail. Mr Gough celebrated with a bottle of champagne and said he was looking forward to a good meal and a soft bed before heading home to Hampshire. The former Royal Marine made the 900-mile journey to question society’s attitude towards the human body. He was arrested several times, made several court appearances and served two jail sentences on his journey, following complaints from members of the public. Mr Gough began his crusade to promote the virtues of going naked in June, setting off from Land’s End in England to John O’Groats in Scotland. His route also took him into Wales. This is just one step in the whole process of making people aware about our bodies because we are so paranoid about them. He has spent his time walking, often in near freezing temperatures, wearing only socks, walking boots, his hat and his rucksack. Mr Gough said it would take time to change people’s minds, but that he hoped the campaign would be successful. He said: “You plan and look ahead and then when it finally arrives it’s all a bit of a blur, as if it’s not really happening. “People have been coming down to meet me, taking photographs of me. Someone shook a bottle of champagne all over me. “I think tonight I’ll have a really big meal because I haven’t really eaten in the last few days. I ran out of food and ended up having to drink out of streams. “I’ll have to have a think about what I’m going to do next. “This is just one step in the whole process of making people aware about our bodies because we are so paranoid about them. “He said he was planning to stay the night in John O’Groats before putting his clothes back on and heading south. Stephen mentioned afterwards “I don’t know whether the laws being different are necessarily the reason why I have been convicted more in Scotland than in England. I rather think it is about how the term “reasonable person” is interpreted: is it a high objective standard based in reality (what’s true) or is it the expected subjective opinions of the majority based on intolerance and prejudice?”
Wikipedia documents further exploits and trials and says :-
His second Land’s End to John O’ Groats ramble was in 2005–2006 and accompanied by his girlfriend Melanie Roberts. He was arrested twice in England but almost immediately released. On entering Scotland there were further arrests — the current total being over 20 including contempt of court after he appeared naked before a judge. He served a three-month sentence in HMP Edinburgh. The walk was resumed on 12 February 2006, and completed shortly after on Monday 20 February the same year. His website claims that ordering him to wear clothes for his court appearance “breached Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights” – Right to a Fair Trial. He claimed that Articles 3 and 5 to 11 have been repeatedly breached by the authorities since he and Melanie arrived in Scotland. On 25 August 2006 he was given a seven month jail sentence. On 9 April 2007 Gough was cleared of charges related to his refusal to dress upon being released into Saughton Prison car park in Edinburgh. The ruling judge, Isobel Poole, found that there was no evidence of “actual alarm or disturbance”, adding “I can understand this conduct could be considered unpleasant to passers-by had there been any but there is a lack of evidence to that effect.” In November 2007, Gough lost his appeal against contempt of court convictions for refusing to wear clothes during his 2005 trial and had another 3 months added to his sentence. In January 2008, after spending most of the previous 20 months in jail (being rearrested for nudity each time he was released and each time he appeared in court), Gough was released and told that if he went for three months without appearing naked in public he would not be returned to jail for outstanding convictions; two hours later he left the court naked and was immediately re-arrested and subsequently returned to jail. Gough served his time in Barlinnie Prison and was released on 14 October 2008, when he was again immediately arrested for leaving the prison naked. On 14 November, he was cleared of that offence on the grounds of insufficient evidence, but appeared in the dock naked and was rearrested in the foyer of Glasgow Sheriff Court. On 18 December he was convicted of a breach of the peace and sentenced to a further 12 months.
In July 2009, Gough, once again standing in the dock naked, was jailed at Perth for a further 12 months for breach of the peace. Sheriff MacFarlane was told that the bill for dealing with Gough had cost the public an estimated several hundred thousand pounds. The court heard how Gough had finished a previous jail term at Perth Prison and was released to enjoy freedom for the first time in several months. However, his freedom lasted less than 30 seconds after he walked naked from the prison door to Edinburgh Road. Gough was also sentenced to four months for refusing to dress before the trial. While in jail in Perth, on 6 July 2009, Stephen Gough received a visit from two members of the French Association pour la promotion du naturisme en liberté (Association for the Promotion of Naturism in Liberty), which is tracking his activities. On 8 February 2010 Gough was convicted of breach of the peace and contempt of court, charges relating to walking naked in Perth and appearing naked in court. He was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment, his longest sentence to date. On 25 November 2010 he was found guilty of: on 26 October 2010, conducting himself in a disorderly manner, standing naked at the gates of Perth Prison, refusing to wear any clothing or otherwise cover his private parts and committing a breach of the peace. He was sentenced to 15 months and 26 days. He is understood to spend his time in prison in solitary confinement.He was released on 20 July 2011, but immediately rearrested after leaving the prison naked, and received another 657 day sentence. When that sentence concluded on 17 July 2012, he left the prison naked again, but this time the police allowed him to go on his way. Three days later, on 20 July, he was rearrested by Fife Police for a breach of the peace in Townhill. On 13 September 2012 he was sentenced to five months in prison. Released again in early October 2012, he walked from Saughton to Edale during October, continuing across the English border down the Pennine Way to Edale by October 31, with two arrests en route in Hebden Bridge and Halifax. Released on bail, he continued to walk south and is due back in Court on 5 February 2013 to face public order charges. He was arrested in Carterton, Oxfordshire on suspicion of outraging public decency on 4 December and was then refused bail and spent Christmas in jail after his application for bail was refused. He was arrested again as he walked along Southampton Common on February 19.On 28th February 2013 he was issued with an interim anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) banning him from going nude in public places.The order was issued at Southampton Magistrates’ Court which states that he must “wear sufficient clothing in public”. The order is effective for all of England and Wales until 10 May and if Mr Gough, of Eastleigh, Hampshire, contravenes it, he could be imprisoned.
Throughout the last 10 years, Stephen Gough has been hounded by the authorities who have failed to apply the laws of the land in the correct way. He’s been imprisoned, let out, charged, had charges dropped, but at no time had he seeked to “harass, alarm or distress” others as the law say, neither has he committed offences under the sex offences act of 2003. It seems that societies prejudice against the naked body stretches far beyond the laws of the land and is formed more from public opinion rather than any just cause. Once again as it is mentioned many times in this blog the naked body is seen by most more of a sexual thing rather than the skin we were all born in.
Become a supporter of the Naked Rambler Facebook group – Free the Naked Rambler
This blog entry was compiled with help and thanks from information and some text gathered from :- Timeline of Events for Stephen Gough by Nigel Bromley, Wikipedia, BBC, Newspaper news reports,Images from various sources(extra thanks) and also words from my own hand.