[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”4MeLpUeZ3UcZzd1bfrKbGpoANlRJ5Do3″] Stephen Gough, known as the Naked Rambler, has been jailed for two-and-a half years after breaking the terms of an ASBO which bans him from appearing naked in public.
Gough, a former Royal Marine, has already spent eight years of almost continuous imprisonment as a result of his refusal to wear clothes in public – even appearing in the dock naked.
Gough had been arrested outside the gates of Winchester prison on April 15 just minutes after being released from a 16 month sentence for breaking an ‘indefinite’ ASBO – which states that he cannot appear in public naked with his buttocks and genitals exposed.
PC Rich Moody told Winchester Crown Court how he had been sent to the prison with a spare set of clothes to prevent Gough from breaching the terms of the ASBO again.
PC Moody said he saw Gough emerge from jail naked except for socks and boots and carrying two large plastic bags. The officer said Gough was in full view of people waiting at a bus stop outside the Royal Hampshire County Hospital.
PC Moody offered Gough a tracksuit but he refused to wear it, and was promptly arrested. The court heard, that following his arrest Gough told police that he would not comply with the ASBO because he thought it was unreasonable, saying: “I want to live a reasonable life, I want my integrity.”
Gough told officers he thought the ASBO was “gobbledygook” and that it “goes against my sense of what is right”. Gough told police: “I am not a robot I am a human being. Just because someone says something, no matter how big he is , you just don’t follow it.”
Prior to selecting and swearing in the jury, Judge J Miller had Gough brought before her to ask him if he wear clothes but Gough, who was representing himself, refused.
In a terse exchange, Gough refused to sit down.
“I am respectfully asking to stand. I want to be treated like a normal defendant,” Gough said.
“A normal defendant will sit down if asked to do so.” said the judge.
Gough was warned that if he did not sit then the trial would proceed without him.
Despite repeated requests Gough reused to sit and was taken back down to the cells.
Prosecutor Simon Jones told the judge that he thought Gough had been given every opportunity to participate but would not co-operate.
A group of Gough’s supporters, who had been in the public gallery, drafted a letter to the judge expressing their concerns about the way the trial was proceeding.
The supporters said they were not naturists but well wishers concerned about Gough’s civil liberties.
The letter noted that the jury had not been told that public nudity was not in itself a criminal offence and referred to the CPS guidance on handling cases of Naturism.
Gough’s supporters also felt the jury should be told he had already spent eight years in custody and that Gough refused to wear clothing out of ‘sincere and deeply held beliefs’ and not to cause alarm or distress.
The judge accepted the representation and a copy was provided for the prosecution.
The Prosecutor said he not said anything to suggest public nudity was illegal as it was irrelevant – the trial was to consider an alleged breach of an ASBO not its validity.
The judge said that mentioning Gough’s previous time in jail was not only irrelevant, but could be prejudicial and although Gough may have ‘sincere and deeply held beliefs’ this is not a reasonable excuse in law.
The jury of six men and six women took under 15 minutes to reach a unanimous verdict of guilty.
Gough had turned down the opportunity to hear the verdict delivered but was returned to the dock for sentencing.
Judge Miller observed it was not the first ASBO Gough had broken and that he has committed a total of 48 offences: “We are going round in circles in an endless cycle of prison sentences.” she observed.
Sentencing the Naked Rambler to two-and-a half years imprisonment plus a £120 victim surcharge.
The judge suggested that some sort of ‘closed community’ should be found for Gough otherwise “he is going to continue committing offences till the end of his natural life.”
The judge told Gough that he would only have to serve half of the sentence and warned him: “You are the author of your own destiny.”