The whole (naked) truth

Local News News

russell higgsA man referred to as “the naked rambler of Oxford” has been released on bail despite turning up to court entirely naked last month.

Stephen Gough, an activist for the naturist movement, was last Friday released on bail after Oxford Crown Court dropped the charges against him.

Mr Gough, 53, was charged with outraging public decency. However, having reviewed the case, the Crown Prosecution Service found “insufficient evidence” against him to proceed.

Bearing in mind the time Mr Gough, a father of two, has already spent in jail, the choice was made to discontinue the case. However, he remains on bail, pending a number of other related cases.

He was arrested in Carterton, west of Oxford, on 4th December, as he attempted to walk naked from his mother’s house in the south, to the Scottish border.

In late January, Mr Gough appeared in Oxford Crown Court, naked, after an earlier review of his case had refused to drop the charges against him. On Friday, however, he attended the hearing via videolink.

He had been refused bail before Christmas, after he informed the court of his intention to stand trial nude.

Mr Gough has a history of activism for naturist causes. He is most famous for walking, wearing only boots, socks, a rucksack, and occasionally a hat, from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 2003-4, being arrested several times along the way. He repeated the walk in 2005-6, but had to pause several times to serve prison sentences.

Mr Gough has served a total of six years in prison for various offences, including a seven month sentence for his refusal to get dressed on a flight from Southampton to Edinburgh in 2006. Additionally, Mr Gough has a habit of being rearrested shortly after being released. In 2009, having served a sentence at Perth, his freedom lasted under a minute, as he walked from the prison door to Edinburgh road, naked. He has also served several sentences for contempt of court for appearing in the dock naked.

The case has aroused some concern from student sympathisers. Amy Davis, an enthusiastic student nudist and English fresher, commented: “I do not object to nudity myself since it is ridiculous that the natural, beautiful human body should be seen as embarrassing and even repulsive by some.

“However, I do think that turning up naked in random public areas is problematic; the bottom line is that public nudity could be distracting and disruptive to the effective running of the community.”

Mr Gough is currently awaiting the results of a case against him in Halifax, where he is charged with behaving in a manner which could cause harassment, alarm or distress, for appearing naked in the town centre.

Speaking in the dock last week, he said: “I am challenging ingrained beliefs. We are taught indirectly you should not walk around with no clothes on. To act in shame is to teach shame.”