At the end of June there was a lot of hand wringing going on as the managers of Holkham Beach, Norfolk announced that it would be closed to naturists from 1st July 2013. They took this action because of reports of doggers using the beach despite making what turned out to be ineffective efforts last year to curb their activities.
The beach is close to the Sandringham Estate and, according to The Daily Telegraph’s Joe Shute, a favourite haunt of the Royal family until comparatively recently. Her Majesty The Queen made a home movie there in 1957, showing an eight-year old Prince Charles and six-year old Princess Ann buried up to their necks in the sand, while a corgi did it’s royal duty and stood guard. The article also reported that a beach hut was built there for the Royal family in the 1930s and remained until it was mysteriously burned down in 2003.
With Sandringham’s Anmer Hall earmarked as the new residence for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their new baby, the article went on to suggest that the ban brought a sigh of relief in Buckingham Palace. This implied that it would not have been a suitable place to bring up young children without it. Obviously, none of us believe that and, of course, the palace has said nothing officially.
The subject of the ban came up on various websites used by naturists and in one, Naturists-UK, Escort-Wrestler posted this comment: ‘As a lifelong naturist it’s always important to understand the law, where we can go nude, and what we can do.’ Adding: ‘I am bound to get heavily criticised for this, but I have enjoyed sex at Holkham, and public sex is not illegal. What is illegal is if you knowingly offend anyone by having sex where people can see, or where you would reasonably expect people to be able to see.’
On the face of it, this statement seems to be just plain wrong, but following a quick bit of research I find he is right. In November 2010, the Daily Record reported on a Law Lords decision quashing the conviction of a prostitute for public indecency after she was stumbled upon with one of her clients in Dundee’s Eastern Cemetery. The appeal court judges ruled that no crime had been committed as neither had intended to be seen and tried to hide behind some bushes. However, the Law Lords were then sitting as a Scottish court and we have seen from Steve Gough’s case, in Scotland the same law can be interpreted differently to how it is in England and Wales. In an article for Criminal Law and Justice Weekly published in November 2012, Gary Lee Walters considered what various sections of the Sexual Offences Act and Criminal Justice Act, both 2003, have to say on the matter. And it’s very little as neither Act bans intercourse in public places specifically unless the sex act is carried out with little or no regard to whether or not others could see the performance. This led Walters to conclude that: ‘Outdoor sex is not illegal per se, but cottaging [slang for sexual activity carried out in a public lavatory], which is practised by homosexual men outdoors, is.’
Naturists and doggers therefore have something in common; a lack of specific legislation banning what we do but with a society willing to use the law against us if there is the slightest hint of intent to cause offence in our actions. Yet, as Opus Pistorium said in another post on Naturist-UK: ‘…we have lost too many naturist beaches to blatant sexual activity….’ The question I have is; did it need to be blatant?
It doesn’t matter how discrete or careful the people are, there is a high probability that doggers will be seen, regardless of it being their intention or not. ‘“The things they’ve been getting up to in those dunes,”’ wrote Shute for The Daily Telegraph, quoting a Holkham Estate worker, ‘“would make your hair stand on end.”’
Yet, as we have seen, they are doing nothing illegal.
What the incident at Holkham Beach and elsewhere shows is that the association of dogging with naturism is extremely high in people’s minds, leading to a perception that all naturists indulge in outdoor sex. Therefore the doggers’ selfishness is doing incalculable damage to naturism with what many regard as anti-social behaviour. If naturism is to be considered socially acceptable then it needs to break the connection. The question is, how? The naturism that Richard Ungewitter dreamt of was about vegetarianism, sunshine and breathing the clean air of the countryside. Sex was not a part of it. Yet, for a very long time, naturism has been billed as a family activity and by accepting that statement we acknowledge that even naturists have sex from time to time. It is just that, like all things, there is a time and a place for it. And the beach or some other allegedly secluded spot is not that place. Escort-Wrestler and his ilk might consider themselves as lifelong naturists, but according to its definition, as soon as they indulge in sexual behaviour they can no longer be considered so.
NAG has written against the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill going through parliament at the moment. We believe that it gives too much scope to authoritative figures (primarily police officers and magistrates) to make a subjective decision about what constitute anti-social behaviour. It looks as if our protests are going to go unheeded and the Bill will become law at some point in the near future. The next time you are spending a pleasant day at the beach and you spot two people behaving inappropriately, don’t turn away with a shrug of the shoulders, get angry and call the local constabulary to complain about this unacceptable behaviour.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE: No one should rely on the information contained in this blog as legal advice. Readers should obtain the correct legal advice from a qualified solicitor.
ADDENDA: Since writing the above the Naturist Action Group has released a policy statement on Naturism and Public Sex. While we have no wish to enter into a debate about the rights or wrongs of this activity, we have concluded that the juxtaposition of naturist and dogging sites is causing significant harm to naturism as a lifestyle. It is our contention that the ‘live and let live’ philosophy that many naturists have cultivated over the decades has allowed our opponents to influence public opinion against us.
It has also been NAG’s contention that Beach User Groups (BUGs) or Friends of… groups are important to opening up Britain’s beaches to naturist use; the success of Studland United Naturists and Eastney Naturist Beach Liaison Group shows just how important they can be to ensuring that beach naturism thrives in this country. In order to see the widening of beach naturism, NAG is prepared to mentor those willing to form new BUGs or Friends of… groups.