LivingTravelIs it legal to sunbathe naked in England and...

Is it legal to sunbathe naked in England and Wales?

Have you ever wondered if you could be arrested for public nudity (or having sex in a public place) in England, Scotland, or Wales? The question is not as random as you may think. Many people like to sunbathe naked. So is public nudity illegal in the UK?

Well yes and no.

Technically, there is no law against public nudity in the UK. Simple nudity is not illegal. Even doing what someone might consider an obscene act in a public place may not be illegal. It all depends on the circumstances.

Intent and context

There are three laws that apply and all are open to interpretation depending on why nudity occurs and where.

1. The Public Order Act of 1986 prohibits behavior that is “threatening, abusive, or insulting within the hearing or sight of a person that may cause harassment, alarm, or distress.”

In practice, this means that if you are naked, minding your own business, and practicing good nude beach etiquette on a beach that is unofficial but is by mutual agreement considered a nude beach, you are unlikely to have any problems. . In England and Wales, if someone – a police officer or member of the public – asks you to cover for them, you must do so or you could be arrested. He would probably not be charged because someone would have to show that he was deliberately trying to offend. But refusing to cover up when asked could cause a lot of inconvenience and, at the very least, ruin a good day.

It is a mistake to think that the laws on this are stricter in Scotland. In fact, the same laws apply in Scotland as in England and Wales. But “intention” is only part of the story. The ‘context’ is the other and in Scotland, where people are less tolerant of public nudity, you are much more likely to end up in jail.

2. The Sex Crimes Act of 2003: Indecent exposure relates to sexually motivated exposure of the genitals, with the specific intent that someone will see them. Again, sunbathing or biking naked, like taking part in the annual World Naked Bike Ride, probably won’t get you in trouble. But get off your bike or climb out of your beach blanket and deliberately wave your wobbly parts at someone and you’re in trouble.

3. Public outrage of decency is a common law crime that makes it a crime to perform actions or displays in public places that “offend generally accepted standards of decency” and that are witnesses of at least two persons. Since June 2015, the interpretation of this has become stricter. A report from the Law Commission recommended that this offense be moved from common law to the statute books and the requirement that two people be present be removed. Under the proposed statute, the person committing the act must be aware that they could be in a public place and that “the act or display was of such a nature that it caused outrage to ordinary people.” So if you’re thinking of heading out to the dunes for a little lump in private, forget it.

Things like this take forever to make their way into Parliament and the statute books and as of early 2019 this was still on various committees.

What it all means

Tolerance for unofficial nude beaches tends to be very local and quite changeable. It’s a good idea to check the latest information with a naturist website like The National Naturist Information Center (UK) and, at the very least, have some kind of cover-up at your fingertips. It is also a good idea to keep in mind that when it comes to interpreting what will ’cause outrage to the common people’, the authorities in Scotland may take a much stricter view than in other parts of the UK.

Test the law

During 2003-2004, a Hampshire man named Stephen Gough, who became known as The Naked Rambler, began to test UK law by attempting to walk naked from Land’s End, Cornwall, to John O’Groats, in Scotland. . It took him seven months to complete the 900-mile walk, most of the time he spent in jail. He was arrested 14 times and served two short jail terms that year. He attempted to repeat the walk with a partner in 2005, was arrested for a breach of the peace, and spent two weeks in jail in Scotland.

The local sheriff said, when Gough appeared naked in court, “I have no doubt in my mind that walking naked through a Scottish town and on a busy road is not something the Scottish public should deal with.”

What started out as funny bizarre news has turned into something of an obsessive tragedy. As of August 2015, when Gough was released from prison after serving a half 30-month sentence (spent in solitary confinement because he insisted on being naked in jail), he had lost count of how many times he had been arrested and spent around 10 years in jail to prove his point. See his interview with the BBC.

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