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Dublin: 4°C Sunday 28 November 2021

Arrested over 30 times: Scotland's 'Naked Rambler' told being naked is 'not freedom of expression'

He has been arrested. A lot.

Image: Michaelangelo's David via Shutterstock

A EUROPEAN COURT has told a British man that his repeated arrests for being naked in public are not a freedom of his expression.

Stephen Gough of Eastleigh was arrested a number of times in Scotland after walking naked from Land’s End in England to John O’Groats in Scotland.

In 2003, Gough decided to walk naked from Land’s End in England to John O’Groats in Scotland, earning the nickname “the naked rambler”. Between 2003 and 2012 he was arrested over thirty times in Scotland for being naked in public. He was convicted on a number of occasions of breach of the peace. He was also convicted of contempt of court for refusing to dress for his court appearances.

Although he was at first admonished or received relatively short custodial sentences, the sentences increased with his repeat offending.

In total, between 2006 and 2012 he had just seven days of freedom.

He took the UK to European Court of Human Rights, claiming that his right to a private life and his right to free expression had been impinged upon.

In their ruling, the court found that while his nudity was a form of expression of opinion and the punishments were severe, his rights had not been infringed.

“[T]he Court emphasised Mr Gough’s own responsibility for his convictions and the sentences imposed because of his wilful refusal to obey the law over a number of years. It also referred to his duty to show tolerance and sensibility to the views of members of the public, who were likely to be alarmed and offended by his nakedness.

“It pointed out that there were other avenues open to Mr Gough to express his views on nudity. It concluded that Mr Gough’s lengthy imprisonment had been the consequence of his repeated violation of the criminal law, in full knowledge of the consequences, through conduct which went against the standards of accepted public behaviour in any modern democratic society.”

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