Naked Rambler Loses 'Final' Legal Bid

24 March 2015, 19:23

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has rejected a final legal challenge brought by a man known as the Naked Rambler, who had claimed he had a right to be nude in public.

Former Royal Marine Stephen Gough argued that his repeated arrest, prosecution, conviction and imprisonment for public nudity breached his human rights.

But ECHR judges ruled last October that Mr Gough's treatment did not breach his right to a private life or freedom of expression, and today they refused him permission to appeal that decision to the Strasbourg court's highest Grand Chamber.

Gough, of Eastleigh, Hampshire, has walked naked throughout the United Kingdom, from John O'Groats to Land's End, and is a well-known campaigner for his right to appear nude in public - even though his actions have often landed him in prison.

He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years at Winchester Crown Court in October after he walked out of the city's prison only wearing his boots and socks following a previous jail term.

In a statement released through his solicitors Bindmans, Gough, 55, reiterated his views made last October, asking: "How can any sane person be offended at seeing the human body?"

He added: "I was brought up to believe I lived in a country that celebrated eccentricity and difference, not only because it added variety and colour to the otherwise slavish conformity that can feel depressive, constricting and sometimes just downright boring; but that it also indicated a deeper appreciation of how the unorthodox, at its very essence, is how originality and creative energy manifests itself."

Gough brought the case after being arrested for breach of the peace in Perth, Scotland, in July 2011, having by that point spent five years and three months in detention since May 2006.

Having been arrested on a public road leading from HMP Perth he later appeared in court naked to plead guilty to breaching the peace and rejected the sheriff's warnings that he would be held in contempt if he did not put some clothes on.

Gough was handed a total sentence of one year, nine months and 18 days for the breach of the peace and contempt of court.

He subsequently brought a case arguing that his rights under articles eight and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights had been breached.

Last October ECHR judges ruled: "The applicant's imprisonment is the consequence of his repeated violation of the criminal law in full knowledge of the consequences, through conduct which he knew full well not only goes against the standards of accepted public behaviour in any modern democratic society but also is liable to be alarming and morally and otherwise offensive to other, unwarned members of the public going about their ordinary business."

The court described Gough's case as "troubling" but ruled that "relevant and sufficient" measures had been taken against him by the police and legal authorities which saw him arrested in 2011. They were meeting a "pressing social need in response to repeated anti-social conduct" by Gough.