Rambler fined for walking nude outside school
THE so-called "naked rambler" has been fined after he was found guilty of nine public order offences for walking nude in public places including outside a primary school.
Stephen Gough, 53, of Chamberlayne Road, Eastleigh, Hampshire, England pleaded not guilty to the charges of behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
But District Judge Anthony Calloway found Gough guilty of the offences ruling that the unwitting members of the public had been "distressed" at seeing the defendant without clothes on.
He fined the defendant £200 for each offence but waived payment of the fine in lieu of time served by Gough in custody.
District Judge Calloway said: "There is evidence, in my judgment, there are elements of the defendant as an exhibitionist."
Gough gained notoriety in 2003 and 2005 when he walked naked from Land's End to John O'Groats and was the subject of a TV documentary.
His refusal to put on clothes in public has led to him spending prolonged terms in prison for repeatedly breaching court rulings.
Gough was banned from entering the court after he refused to wear clothing for the trial.
Giving his ruling that Gough couldn't sit naked during the hearing, District Judge Calloway said: "What is offensive? In my opinion to enter a court room naked for any purpose is potentially disrespectful to the court, its staff, the public and those interested in the proceedings and in my judgment is capable of being regarded as offensive."
Charles Nightingale, prosecuting, said that in several of the offences Gough was seen by parents with young children who were "shocked and alarmed" at seeing him naked.
He said the offences took place in various locations including country footpaths, Southampton city centre and at a magistrates' court.
The nine offences occurred in a 17-day period in February this year.
In the first of the offences, Gough walked past Hurstbourne Tarrant Church of England Primary School in Andover, on February 11.
The court heard that headteacher Christopher Brooks-Martin said that he saw Gough walking past the school at just after 3pm although none of the children were believed to have seen the defendant.
Mr Nightingale said: "He was alarmed the children could have seen the naked man and found it distressing.
"The headteacher did not think it was appropriate for the man to walk past a primary school."
Mr Brooks-Martin told police: "I would be upset and angry if he was to walk past again and show little or no respect for the children."
A parent walking to the school who saw Gough said that she warned him there was a school ahead and said: "I would not want my child to see a fully naked man outside their school."
Gough was arrested four days later after walking naked along a footpath in Eastleigh.
One female witness said: "I was offended by his actions, I was so gobsmacked I couldn't believe what I was seeing."
Mr Nightingale told the court that Gough told police that he did not believe he was the cause of any alarm or distress.
He said that Gough told the officers: "It's just their subjective viewpoint, I am not the cause of their prejudices so I accept that people would act in a prejudicial manner to me walking in my natural state."
On another occasion two mothers, both with their three children, saw Gough walking along a small footpath.
One of the women told police: "I felt shocked at what I had seen, I was outraged this man could walk totally naked with young children around.
"I was so angry I had to shield my children from this man with his penis on display.
"I felt it was totally disrespectful."
A 17-year-old girl who saw Gough on another occasion said: "I was really shocked that he was walking around naked.
"I use that footpath a lot, I do not know what his intentions were, whether he was going to hurt us or whether he was a sexual predator.
"If I had seen him on my own I would have been really scared and run away from him."
When questioned by police about this incident, Gough said the action of a mother shielding their daughter's sight of him would "cause more damage" psychologically.
The court heard that Gough was arrested at Basingstoke Magistrates' Court on February 25 when Gough attended naked and was refused entry by security staff.
The police were called when Gough did not leave and court staff were concerned for an eight-year-old witness who was due to arrive at the court.
In the final incident on February 27, a female driver described how she momentarily lost control of her car and swerved into the oncoming lane when she saw Gough naked.
She said: "Seeing this man naked I was shocked and I was also alarmed at him being naked.
"I could easily have been involved in an accident with oncoming traffic."
When asked by police why he was walking naked, Gough replied: "To express the truth of what I am which is not shameful."
Tom Stevens, defending, said that his client believed his nudity was allowed under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act which protects freedom of expression.
He said: "He is saying that full nudity is a form of freedom of expression."
Mr Stevens added that Gough did not behave in a threatening manner and many of the witnesses had found his "entirely peaceful" actions to be amusing.
Mr Nightingale said: "What we have here is the defendant on nine occasions confronting members of the public who have no choice about the confrontation because it is his view that the human body is not a shameful thing.
"His view is correct if he was to refrain his activity to a nudist beach or club or hire a public place where he could present his personal views.
"The defendant doesn't accept that members of the public are alarmed or distressed by his actions."
He added that Gough showed a "total disregard" for parents to discuss nudity with their children at a time and place of their choosing.
District Judge Calloway added: "The human body is not a shameful thing, it is about context."
Gough remains in custody as he awaits trial for a further charge of an alleged breach of an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) banning him from being naked in public.
Independent.ie Comments Facility
INM has taken the decision to remove the commenting facility on its online platform Independent.ie to minimise the legal risk to our business that arises from Ireland's draconian libel awards system.
We continue to look forward to receiving comments through direct email contact or via social media, some of which may still be featured on the website Independent.ie