Felicity writes in the UK Independent i Paper about the naked rambler #occupywillystreet

Picture of Felicity Gerry KC
Felicity Gerry KC

Legal. Media. KC.

What’s the problem with nudity?

By Felicity Gerry QC

The European Court of Human Rights yesterday suggested that there are other ways for the Naked Rambler, Steven Gough, to express his views on nudity than walking down the street naked. This comes only months after police in County Down warned they will arrest people who go skinny dipping for indecent exposure. I wonder if Mr Gough and tempted Belfast Lough skinny dippers will be tempted to take to social media instead?

Millions of people already post naked/semi-naked images of themselves every day on a public online forum, but Mr Gough has suffered the indignity of repeated imprisonment for walking naked on the highways and byways of Britain.

It is Mr Gough’s belief that he has a fundamental right to walk about naked and that this is not indecent. His counsel argued that Mr Gough’s conduct was objectively reasonable and that to pursue Mr Gough for this offence in these circumstances contravenes his rights under Art 10 of the ECHR, which provides everyone with the right to freedom of expression, albeit subject to such conditions or penalties as prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society. The argument failed. Now I have visions of thousands of naked walkers and cyclists joining together in protest in a sort of “Occupy Willy Street” with Russell Brand at the helm without so much as a mask on. On the other side of the debate, no doubt, would be a deluge of campaigns and petitions to keep Britain dressed for “the sake of our children”. Meanwhile, poor Mr Gough still can’t go for a walk without risk of arrest even though there is nothing sexual in what he does.

Felicity Gerry QC is an international barrister and the co-author of the of The Sexual Offences Handbook