I read about the coming event in the local newspaper. And I thought I might go to see it. But then I took a package somewhere and was on my way to get my hair cut when I saw naked bike riders in the distance. I had my phone with me and started snapping, and kept on snapping. They were very friendly and I loved it. What an opening up of life. Just wonderful.
I have thought about public acts and private acts before. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? as the song goes. I imagined a different world – a world where everyone was ‘doing it’ in the road. Imagine going to the shops and seeing couples copulating all down the road. Every day.
I see that what makes private actions valuable to us is that we keep them private. We reduce humanity if we do not keep a place for the private.
But this happy public event was positive. Just a little shake to loosen the bonds of life we set for ourselves.
Why aren’t the cyclists arrested for indecent exposure, a public display of nudity, or whatever the crime is that you might think they are committing?
In the UK, nudity itself is not illegal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The offence is set out in s.66 is under the heading of ‘exposure’ and it reads:
A person commits an offence if—
(a) he intentionally exposes his genitals, and
(b) he intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress.
So it’s all in the intention.
The naked rambler (google for him) was arrested repeatedly. Somehow what one person probably cannot do, many together can do legally.
The Crown Prosecution Service has issued guidelines on possible offences which states
Recommended approach to naturism
Although every case should be considered according to its own facts and merits in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors a consistent approach to naturism should be adopted to maintain public confidence in the CPS. Where none of the features exist that would bring behaviour within the ambit of one of the offences set out in the section on Other offences that might involve nudity below, the recommended approach to naturism should be as follows.
In the absence of any sexual context and in relation to nudity where the person has no intention to cause alarm or distress it will normally be appropriate to take no action unless members of the public were actually caused harassment, alarm or distress (as opposed to considering the likelihood of this).
In this case such conduct should be regarded as at most amounting to an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986; and regard needs to be had to the question of whether a prosecution is in the public interest.
Other offences that might involve nudity – Exposure contrary to section 66 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003
This requires a person to intentionally expose their genitals and intend that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress. It is triable either way. Depending on the age of the defendant and the sentence that is imposed, an offender may be subject to the notification provisions (the sex offender register).
The need to prove that the person exposed their genitals intending that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress means that a naturist whose intention is limited to going about his or her lawful business naked will not be guilty of this offence.
The catch-all of disorderly behaviour under s.5 of the Public Order Act 1986, reads, under the heading ‘Harassment, alarm or distress.’:
A person is guilty of an offence if he uses threatening or abusive words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening or abusive, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
So I guess there is a fine line between the ‘intention’ of s.66 of the 2003 Act and the ‘disorderly behaviour’ under the 1986 Act – of public nudity but without intention to cause distress but which is likely to and does cause distress.