I think we can all agree that despite naturism’s popularity, it is still only a minority of the population that sees the world as we do. But then, perhaps not every naturist sees naturism the same way either.
And no, I am not thinking of Steve Gough. His recent prison sentence imposed for breaking an ASBO is, in my mind, completely unjust when most people consider him a harmless eccentric. However, the reason for which he has been imprisoned has nothing to do with his nudity. His ‘crime’ is disobeying orders issued by judges for the benefit of society; another words, contempt of court. As an ex-serviceman, it is supposed that he would see the need for such dictates for the common good, and obey them even if he fundamentally disagrees, finding some other way to get his point of view across.
What we have, on one side, is a man who is determined that his principles shall prevail over everyone else’s no matter what, while on the other, a legal system, equally determined that they shall not. It is a mismatched contest with only one possible outcome. Gough will be trapped in a revolving door, in and out of prison, going nowhere, his voice drowned out by the sound of the gate closing behind him. In time, Gough will be forgotten, the world will move on and so shall we.
At least Gough had a voice, however briefly, unlike Russell Kingdon. A 64-year old Oxfordshire man who has been found guilty of acts not too dissimilar to those carried out by Gough and with a similar outcome. The only difference is that it is accepted that Kingdon is a naturist.
Briefly, the facts as reported by the Henley Standard (02/12/13) are that in July 2013, Diane Bowles, an early-morning dog walker, says she saw Kingdon at a local cricket ground. At first a fence obstructed her view, but as she got closer she realised that he was naked and retreated back the way she came. In his defence, Kingdon told police that he had removed his shorts on arrival at the ground and sat on a bench for a while. He then walked towards the centre of the playing field to get a better view of the pavilion clock. It was only when he turned back towards the bench that he saw Mrs Bowles and he quickly replaced his shorts. In court, however, both witness and accused said things that differed from their original police statements. Contrary to her statement, in court Mrs Bowles said she had seen Kingdon’s genitals, while Kingdon told the court that he had been wearing a mini-kilt and Bowles was mistaken in what she had seen.
Whatever the truth is, Kingdon has been convicted because he broke the conditions of an ASBO he picked up in 2012.
I don’t suppose any naturists that has made a court appearance in recent years were making a statement about naturism and its lack of acceptance by the general public, but if they continue to ignore the sentence (unless they are making an appeal) are, I believe, causing naturism harm.
Apart from the latest BN survey, carried out by Ipsos-MORI, there is no evidence to suggest that the great British public are tolerant of naturists and our desire to be naked in hot weather. This lack of evidence is used by the justice system to suggest that public nudity is not desirable in British society. Therefore, time and again, naturists have appeared in various courts up and down the land, using the same arguments to defend their belief that the naked body is not offensive. Even if the original decision is overturned on appeal at the Crown Court, it does not set a precedent, so the arguing continues. The justice system prides itself that it is part of the society it is defending. With each court appearance that supports their accepted view, reinforcing that view and creating a circular argument in favour of the status quo.
The weak link in all of this is of course the very notion that the legal system serves society. Over time society’s opinions can be changed and if we succeed in that, it naturally follows that the police, magistrates and judges of this land will not longer consider social, non-sexual nudity as anti-social but the norm. Such a journey, like all such journeys, start with the first step. Admittedly it will be a long one, but NAG is ready for it. Are you?