January 21 2022

Naked Rambler prosecution: the law is making itself look ridiculous

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Naked Rambler prosecution: the law is making itself look ridiculous

Human Beinz, by rUssEll shAw hIggs, from Flickr

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Human Beinz, by rUssEll shAw hIggs, from Flickr

Human Beinz, by rUssEll shAw hIggs, from Flickr

I have previously written rather sympathetically about Stephen Gough the booted and bearded ex-Marine, better known as ‘The Naked Rambler’ on www.barristerblogger.com. Gough has just been gaoled for another two and a half years – see report here.

  • This article appeared on www.barristerblogger.com first

Well I apologise for doing so again because there are, of course, any number of more important issues, except to him. Mr Gough is a strange obsessive, whose determination never to wear clothes has apparently even alienated him from his own children.

His obsessiveness is matched by the determination of Hampshire Police and Wessex CPS who have been relentless and very successful in their attempts to ensure that the sensitive residents of Winchester are not caused any distress by the sight of Mr Gough’s private parts. They have persuaded a court to impose an indefinite anti-social behaviour order, or ASBO, on him, which means that he commits a criminal offence if he does not wear his clothes in public. The only exceptions are that he is allowed to go naked in a changing room, on a nudist beach or for a medical examination.

Gough has spent most of the last eight years in prison. His latest crime was committed as soon as he was released from his last sentence. On emerging from the grim gates of Winchester Prison, wearing only a pair of boots and carrying his belongings in a pair of HM Prison plastic bags, he was met by Police Constable Moody who was equipped with a tracksuit and charged with a task that has eluded all previous law enforcement officers for the last decade: to persuade the Rambler to put on at least the bottoms. When he refused PC Moody arrested him and took him back into custody.

It is not, in itself, unlawful to go naked in public. It is an offence under S.66 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to expose ones genitals with intent that someone should thereby be caused ‘alarm or distress’ but nobody has ever suggested that Mr Gough had such an intent. It can be an offence to cause a public nuisance and ‘harm the morals of the public or their comfort, or obstruct the public in the enjoyment of their rights’ but as an earlier and more successful nudist, Vincent Bethell, showed in 2001 juries are reluctant to find that merely being naked in the street does anything of the sort.

Prosecutors are too canny to charge Mr Gough with these offences, not least because there are defences to them and they fear that he would be acquitted.

Mr Gough has in the past been charged under S.5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which makes it an offence to use: ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour … within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby … .’

This offence however, is only triable in the Magistrates Court and cannot be punished by a sentence of imprisonment.

So the only way that Mr Gough can be reliably restrained is to tailor him, as it were, a bespoke ASBO. As far as I am aware nobody else is subject to a similar order.

The result is that the only person in the country who actually wants to wander naked around the streets of Winchester is also the only man in the country who commits a crime by doing so.

It is extremely hard to come up with a defence to breaching an ASBO. In the past Mr Gough has been represented by very able counsel who have struggled, without much success, to persuade judges that it breaches his human rights. On this occasion, it sounds as though he was again defending himself, while the prosecution were represented by Simon Jones, a senior barrister.

There were the usual arguments about whether Mr Gough could appear naked in the dock during his trial (the judge, like her predecessors, would not allow it) and, untroubled by any defence arguments the jury duly took less than 15 minutes to convict him.

Judge Jane Miller QC then sentenced him to two and a half years imprisonment, while expressing the wish that he could be found some sort of ‘closed community’ where he could live a life of cloistered nakedness.

Anybody who knows Judge Miller would agree that a more humane and sensible judge would be impossible to find, but in this case I think she was wrong.

An eccentric who poses no risk to anybody is being made to spend the rest of his life in gaol – incidentally at huge public expense – because of a law that has been crafted to criminalise his chosen way of life.

He has already spent most of the last eight years in prison. When he is released (after serving half of his latest sentence) he will have served the equivalent of virtually a 20 year prison sentence. Had he defrauded an elderly lady of her life savings he could not have been sentenced to more than ten years. Had he raped a twelve year old child he might have received a sentence of about 16 years.

Judge Miller obviously recognised the undesirability of these repeated gaol sentences, hence her suggestion that he might be able to live in some ‘closed community’. Obviously a prison might qualify, but I think she had something rather more congenial in mind.

On costs grounds alone this might make sense. According to the latest Ministry of Justice figures in 2012/13 it cost £37,220 to keep someone in an entirely state run prison for a year (down from £37,878 in 2011/12). (If Mr Gough is kept in an entirely privately built and managed “PFI” prison the cost would be closer to £46,000, although in the bizarre world of prison economics other types of privately run prisons work out cheaper).

Judge Miller probably had in mind somewhere like the Croft Country Club, a ‘friendly family orientated Naturist club located in the middle of the fens on the Norfolk Cambridgeshire border’. It comes with all sorts of attractions, including a putting green, a sauna and even a petanque court. It is true that it is not a ‘closed community’ but when the fenland fog comes down in late November it probably feels like one. If Mr Gough could be persuaded to ‘go “glamping” in Ashwood our camping pod (bring your own bedding and towels or bedding bale for hire)’, then the charge would be £135 for a three or four night break, and £150 on Bank holiday weekends. Even assuming no discount for a two and a half year stay, this would work out about half as expensive as accommodating Mr Gough in prison, even if he didn’t bring his own bedding.

All this might provide a solution if the Naked Rambler was willing to eke out the rest of his life playing petanque in Wisbech. Unfortunately he would rather wander around Winchester, or, failing that, go to prison.

The solution is a very simple one.

Stop prosecuting him for breaching his ASBO. If he does things that would constitute a crime if done by others by all means throw the book at him.

Otherwise please stop wasting our money on what has long since become the persecution of a harmless eccentric. He has chosen to look ridiculous. The law is making itself look ridiculous.

15 responses to “Naked Rambler prosecution: the law is making itself look ridiculous”

  1. Matthew

    An excellent article which just about sums up the situation.

    Mr Gough claims that he isn’t a Naturist (He is by my definition) and is not after living his life as a Naturist. He doesn’t see the human body as being indecent and is contesting the irrational indoctrination, much propagated by irrational Religions, that there is something indecent about the human body.

    His case is full of hypocrisy. He has been given an ASBO preventing him from doing something which is not unlawful. It seems that it is lawful for a thousand cyclists to cycle naked through the centre of London on a busy Saturday afternoon in the World Naked Bike Ride. Similarly it is lawful for hundreds of cyclists to ride naked through Southampton, but it would be unlawful for Mr Gough to join them.

    It seems OK for commercial firms to use nudity in advertising, it is lawful for nudity in the name of charity, it is lawful to have naked statues in the streets or in art galleries or for naked photos to appear in the Sun. It was lawful for BBC ‘Have I Got News for You’ to show a photo of me naked on the top of a Scottish mountain (without my permission!)but the sight of Mr Gough naked seems to bring apoplexy among the forces of law and order.

    When they debated the Sexual Offences Act (2003)(Section 66)Parliament and the Government made it very clear they did not intend to criminalise “Naturism or streaking”, but this is exactly what the police and the Courts are trying to do.

    His ‘crusade’ is for the right to wear what he likes. Mrs May in her speech to the Conservative Party Conference made it clear that in Britain we are “Free to wear what we like”. Muslims seem free to wear what they like but Naturists are arrested if they wear what they like.

    Perhaps the problem with Mr Gough is that he isn’t very attractive. Would the police act in the same way if he was an attractive young lady?

    He isn’t being imprisoned for being naked in public, he is being imprisoned for standing up to the Judiciary which is a far bigger crime than being naked in public. What would anyone else have to do to get a two and half year prison sentence?

    “If you are offended by nudity you are offended by God’s greatest creation”

    I write an occasional blog on the British Naturism website. Would you give me permission to quote your blog in its entirety on that blog.


  2. Hello Matthew,

    Thank you for your wisdom and common sense, and for your compassion.

    This individual is not, in my view, a “harmless eccentric”. He makes it his business, through misunderstanding and acute confusion in my view, to offend and upset vey many perfectly ordinary and decent people, without any apology or remorse at all.

    Some people confronted with him just beat a retreat, while others (even the most compassionate Judge) have to take a firm line, because to do otherwise would undermine their own status and position; if somebody refuses to comply with a Judge’s clear direction in a Court, then he or she has to be sanctioned, else every real criminal scumbag and his brief would be wrapping Judges around their little fingers; and we see enough of that.

    Please can somebody confirm one way or the other; has this man been formally assessed as to his capacity to function in Public, by a well qualified Doctor Of Psychology? That person might see fit to “Section” him, under Mental Health Rules, which are what apply here.

    He would then be detained in a Psychiatric Ward, and would end up in some sort of a segregated environment, because there is NO WAY that his fellow patients in a Triage or Acute Ward would tolerate his wandering around bollock naked, and the Nursing Staff would not remotely allow that situation to carry on, for all the right reasons. Sense prevails in such environments….

    Has this poor man simply fallen into a gap between the Judicial Systems and the Health Service?

    PLEASE, can he be embraced caringly by the Psychological and Mental Health Services? I commend these people warmly to him – they cared for me, and looked after me, while I was extremely unwell, and now, happily, I don’t need any longer to draw of their resources, so that they can look after people who need their care more.

    Yours, George Gretton

    • It is NOT the case here in the UK that:


      It is NOT the HUMAN RIGHT of one HUMAN BEING to take the life of, or enslave, or falsely imprison ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.

      It is NOT THE HUMAN RIGHT of one person to VIOLATE THE HUMAN RIGHTS of another HUMAN BEING.


      Those are my last words in this thread … phew….


    • George Cavanagh says:

      Hi George Gretton, In reply to your question on whether or not Mr Gough has been assessed on medical grounds. Yes he has. During his time in Scotland there were two medical reports carried out on him while he was in either Perth Prison or Edinburgh Saughton awaiting trial in or around 2006 approx. One was done by a clinical psychologist and the other by a psychiatrist and both results produced the same clear answers. The assessments were carried out on Mr Gough while he sat naked behind a glass screen in a prison room. Apart from all the usual case history stuff of family, schooling (He went to an all boys school in Chamberlayne Road),leaving school at aged 15, working in a local boatyard, joining the Royal Marines stationed in Arbroath for 5 years service with maneuvers in Norway, as well as on the English moors and call of duty service in Northern Ireland during the times of the troubles (no traumas), then leaving military service by mutual agreement for Thailand and joining the Moonies sect(Unification Church) for two years before leaving (by mutual agreement)and returning home, taking up Yoga and Psychology classes before dropping out and getting married to a Chinese girl he met there (separating by mutual agreement), experimenting with drugs (but not heroin) and perhaps other naughty things besides , then meeting his partner Alison and having two children, setting up a T-Shirt sales business called Eupsychia Ltd in 1993 to 1999 ( http://www.companydirectorcheck.com/stephen-peter-gough-5 ), then moving to Canada to live in a commune, before separating from his young family (by mutual agreement)and returning to England to become The Naked Rambler from the year 2000 onward up until this current date. Both experts conclusions were that Stephen was suffering from narcissistic personality and behaviour disorders bordering on solipsism ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solipsism ) with delusions of grandeur. Hopefully this is of some help to you George G.. The report of the case and Mr Gough’s trial where the Medical people attended was in the Scottish Law records but is no longer available online as far as I can see but I remember reading it a long, long time ago. Best regards George C.

      • A correction is needed to the date that I gave earlier on this comment. Going through old files online, I have re-discovered the correct year Stephen Gough was required to have psychological and psychiatric reports was in fact 2010 and not 2006 as previously stated. The text below is a report from a court case of the time. http://www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2010/01/13/naked-rambler-im-like-rosa-parks

        “The man known as the Naked Rambler has been told he will be arrested again and again if he continues to refuse to wear clothes in public.

        The warning came from Sheriff Lindsay Foulis who remanded Stephen Gough into custody for psychological and psychiatric reports after finding him guilty of breaching the peace near Perth Prison on 17 December 2009 when he stepped from the jail wearing nothing but a smile and was promptly rearrested. Mr Gough had been serving a sentence for a similar offence.

        Representing himself in court, he refused the sheriff’s offer of bail if he put on clothes to return to his home in Hampshire. He conducted his case naked in the court.”

        End of quote. This means the medical reports were carried out around January 2010 and presented to the court in Perth some time after that. Again, I was unable to retrieve the full history of that Perth case from the Scots court website as most links have ceased to exist. http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk .

        • Hello again Kindred Namesake George, who also likes to get his facts right…

          “The Naked Rambler, who has faced the stiffest [GG: ?} opposition to his activities north of the border [GG: nothing gets past the Jocks], compared his campaign to that of US civil rights heroine Rosa Parks, whose defiance in giving up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama, and the subsequent boycott campaign, are viewed as a crucial stage in black emancipation in the States.”

          So the Naked Willy compared himself with Rosa Parks? Wow…. words sometimes fail one. One’s breath is taken away, Tina….

          I compare that thought with a load of Naked Bollocks, Heaven forbid that I should ever contemplate his….

          I rest my case, M’Lady Sherriff, Your Honour, and everybody else with at least s shred of common sense…

          In technical parlance, we are in an advanced state of narcissistic fantasies and delusions of grandeur, from whatever source, PSTD or otherwise.

          It’s very sad, and it has nothing at all to do with naturism, nudism, and anything akin to those activities and views.

          As with the hijack of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, the just cause of respectful nudism has been hijacked…

          Yours, George The Clothed One, at least in Public… and the Naked Willy wears clothes indoors?

          • I’m disappointed that you are concentrating on the genitals in this post, but are unable to give them their proper name and calling Mr Gough “Naked Willy” just cheapens your arguments.

            Others have compared Mr Gough with Rosie Parks or Nelson Mandela. While his cause may not have the same gravity as those of the anti-apartheid movement, there are similarities in the motivation and methods.

            They are all fighting what they see as injustice inflicted on them by the majority or the authorities. The blacks in USA and South Africa would have been seen by many whites as sub-human and not worthy of “Human Rights” in the same way as you see Mr Gough as being unworthy of “Human Rights”. This is because the authorities define “Human Rights” in their own image and those who do not conform to their views are not worthy of Rights. It is this definition of Rights in your own image which is really what we mean by prejudice. You are prejudiced against Mr Gough because he does not conform to what you see as right.

            Where Mr Gough does merit comparison with such great figures as Rosie Parks, Martin Luther-King and Nelson Mandela is his use of non-violent tactics to pursue his aims and his acceptance of the persecution inflicted on him by the authorities.

            Mr Gough is not an eloquent man and he has not got the advocacy skills of those great advocates of Human Rights.

            Remember history is written by the winners and Rosie Parks and Nelson Mandela would not have been seen as great figures if they had not succeeded in their crusades. Nelson Mandela, in particular, would have just been seen as a terrorist. At the moment it does not appear as if Mr Gough will succeed in his crusade so he is not seen in a good light. Perhaps a better comparison with Mr Gough is those figures who fought for Gay Rights. The attitude to homosexuals and Lesbians has changed radically in my lifetime and centuries of prejudice has been overcome (legally but not in all eyes).

            Those who see being clothed as the natural state of Man are forgetting that Man is just an animal, like any other animal. For most of their existence humans have gone around naked. It is only when Man moved away from his roots to exploit cold climates that Man started wearing clothes, not for modesty, but to allow survival in cold climates.

            I don’t see the Human body as being indecent and it is almost wholly the indoctrination of various religions which has led to the phobia about nudity that is common in modern society. It was this same indoctrination from Religious groups which saw the suppression of the likes of Rosie Parks and of homosexuals and the burning of witches.

            Do you want to live in a state such as IS are trying to produce in Syria and Iraq where the authorities are using intimidation and violence to impose their (warped) moral standards on the non-believers.

            How many other animals do you know who wear clothes? Do you think all dogs should be arrested because they display their genitals?

  3. Christopher Lennon says:

    I agree. If all beaches and public bathing spots were ‘clothing optional’, we would be a healthier more broad-minded society, with less perverts, very likely. It is incredible how prudery has survived every other kind of liberation.

    • Hello Christopher Lennon,

      If all beaches and public bathing spots were “clothing optional”, then they would be no-go-areas for me, on account of the strong level of sexual response that I was born with. This is nothing at all to do with prudery, or with religious indoctrination, or with any notion of shame about my body. I sometimes wander around naked at home, where I live on my own – but with no possibility that others can see me. Let the current situation of nudist / naturalist beaches continue, with mutual respect.

      And as one who is very psychologically aware, and who lived for over 50 years in the shadow of sexual and psychological abuse, I can totally and unambiguously assure you that the existence of “perverts”, that I prefer to call “paedomisetes” (child haters), has NOTHING AT ALL TO DO INHERENTLY with attitudes towards bodies.

      I suggest that you do some homework and research before making any more public pronouncements in this area, since what you say can be experienced as massively crass and ignorant by people who have suffered abuse. I did experience it as such, and it would and will be a jaw-dropper for the Survivors of sexual abuse that I keep in touch with.


      George Gretton

  4. General Comment says:

    Everyone, including the judges who hear the cases against Mr Gough, need to understand his motivation. He is more than happy to wear clothes when alone, and he does so. In fact, he has even been paid for modeling clothing. His purpose is not simply to live his own life naked, but to compel others to see his nakedness because he wants to change their attitudes, whether they like it or not. Before he started this campaign of his, he proclaimed that he would inevitably spend some years in prison and that would be necessary in order to impose his will on society and the courts, forcing a change in the law. The notion that he would be content to live in some kind of naturist community is misguided: that would defeat the whole purpose of what he is doing.

    He sees himself as some kind of Mandela character who will not entertain any kind of compromise because he is fighting against evil oppressors. His will must prevail: society and the law must change to what he thinks it should be and, while ever we refuse to see things his way, he is going to make us pay for his incarceration. Frankly, I don’t want to live in Mr Gough’s idea of the world as a nudist utopia and I find it hard to have much sympathy for him.

    • Hello General…

      “…and that would be necessary in order to impose HIS WILL on society and the courts, forcing a change in the law.”

      Not much of a Democrat, then…. even less respect for others than I had thought.. I KNOW BEST!

      I have sincere convictions, but I don’t, as did Jimmy So-Vile, stick them down anybody’s throat…. although I do equivalent metaphorical things to my Anti-Fraud targets…

      Yours, George Gretton

  5. George Gretton!
    I wrote this comment below in the Hampshire Chronicle online a few days ago, posting as RedVelvetCoat in reply to a prolific blogger going by the name of “bisonstrangler”

    RedVelvetCoat says…

    bisonstrangler wrote:
    “He has had plenty of chances to be a free man. But he refuses to abide by the law, so what else can he expect?”

    Dear bisonstrangler, or may I call you Stuart. There’s really no pressing need for you to remind people about all the rights and wrongs of the Naked Rambler Stephen Gough and his nude antics in public spaces. He was diagnosed in 2006 for evidence in the Scottish court cases by both a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist and both came to the same conclusion in their reports that he is suffering from “narcissistic personality and behaviour disorders bordering on solipsism to the point of delusions of grandeur”. So basically the best option would be to ignore him completely… and that includes all this attention he gets from the media, television and so forth on the internet chat lines like this. Get disinterested, that’s the answer! We’re all feeding the beast. Gladly most people have already become bored with the Naked Rambler and you’ll see very few people are talking about him these days. That’s good but more is needed to be done. How can I persuade you, Stuart, to go away and help by showing a little “disinterested benevolence”? Here’s how. I would like to take Judge Jane Miller QC up on her plea, “If there’s a way out of the endless cycle of prison I would like to find it,” and I’d propose a setting up of a steering committee, Addressing Stephen’s Problem In Situ. ( An acronym ASPIS or ASP for short from the ancient word for Egyptian Cobra or the Greek word for shield). ASPIS would be loosely based on David Cameron’s government Cobra meetings, with a committee of not more than 12 angry men and women to discuss a solution the Stephen Gough’s problem. I’d nominate 1) Judge Jane Miller as Chairperson, 2) Winchester Criminal Lawyer Matthew Scott as Vice-Chairman, 3) Stephen Slominski as minutes taker and press officer, 4) Bernard Boase as liaison officer for Stephen Gough, 5) Lawyer Vincent Scheurer, 6) An officer from the Wessex Crown Prosecution Service, 7) An officer from Hampshire Police, 8) A member of Eastleigh Borough Council, 9) The community policeman for Chamberlayne Road, Eastleigh (Gough’s fixed abode address) 10) A member of Stephen Gough’s family, ideally his ex-partner Alison Ward or their son Yarin Gough, 11) The governor of Winchester prison, and finally last but not least 12) An expert on the life and times of the Naked Rambler Stephen Gough from May 1959 to October 2014… You or me Stuart! (or both)

    Here’s the first agenda for the ASPIS working committee….

    Option one – Continue with the status quo of a lifetime ASBO on Stephen Gough forbidding him to appear naked in public anywhere in England and Wales except for on designated areas like, nudist beaches and naturist colonies, medical examinations and public changing rooms under threat of immediate arrest by the police if he breaches the order.

    Option Two – If after 5 years Stephen Gough has still failed to comply with the ASBO order and is still residing in prison, a suggestion should be made to Hampshire Police and Eastleigh Borough Council to ask the courts to discontinue the Asbo on or around Mr Gough’s 60th birthday in May 2019. He should then be released from prison on licence with a warning that he will be arrested if any more complaints are received from the public about his behaviour.

    Option Three – As option two but additionally Mr Gough to be placed under house arrest in Chamberlayne Road upon release from prison and required to wear a tag to track his movements. If Mr Gough does require to leave his house at any time, a probation officer or similar volunteer should be contacted first and be made to escort Mr Gough everywhere and anywhere. The officer should be wearing a yellow high visibility jacket with the words “Police Aware” on the back while accompanying Mr Gough to notify the public that the situation is under control.

    Option Four – As Judge Jane Miller QC suggests, All nudist colonies and Naturist sites in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales should be approached with the request to offer full-time employment to Mr Gough as a handyman with payment in return of free room and board and perhaps a small remuneration. Mr Gough should be confined to barracks in the colony with no chance of leave unless authorised by police.

    Option Five – WE do nothing. Let Mr Gough spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement in Winchester Prison in the knowledge that one day his health and happiness with deteriorate and he will eventually become unable to make considered informed decisions for himself. He can then be transferred to a secure hospital were he can die in peace and nobody will ever discuss him ever again.

    Other options are now open to offers…….

    I would dearly love to have you on-board on this one, Stuart. With your experience as a former policeman in West Yorkshire and your knowledge as a linguistics professor in Sweden, not to mention over 12 years of blogging on the internet forums on the topic of the Naked Rambler Stephen Gough, I truly believe your assistance would be invaluable to Judge Jane Miller QC in reaching her goal. How about it pal? Are you in?

    • “He was diagnosed in 2006 for evidence in the Scottish court cases by both a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist and both came to the same conclusion in their reports that he is suffering from “narcissistic personality and behaviour disorders bordering on solipsism to the point of delusions of grandeur”.”

      THANK YOU, KINDRED SPIRIT – and Kindred in many ways….

      So these two Good Scots put their fingers right on the naked spot…. in a manner of speaking, of course… and not THAT spot..

      “narcissistic personality and behaviour disorders” – yep crackingly accurate – “bordering on solipsism” – but he DOES acknowledge that others exist, as did Rene Descartes, Rene had some common sense as well as his “Cogito” genius, as well as a spot or maths…. The Naked Man wants to con-vert the world – DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR. So ignoring him is difficult.

      Q: What do we do with the Problem of Gough, Maria?

      A: Pass…… I have no idea…I’m stumped … by the Naked Wicket-Keeper himself… would he wear a box?

      Yours, George Gretton

  6. George Gretton, The only Scottish Law case I could find for you, still online, is concerning “III The Bills of Suspension by Stephen Peter Gough” It’s not what you wanted but an interesting read all the same. See link and scroll down the page as it deals with 2 separate cases, http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2007HCJAC63.html

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