If you’re at work, you almost certainly missed this but the new head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire that the public should not expect to see an officer after their home gets burgled.
The interview with Sara Thornton, who took up her new post as the head on the NCCP in April when it took over from ACPO, has been widely reported, including The Times, but as that paper has a pay wall I’ve included a link as to how the BBC itself reported the interview.
Essentially, with budget cuts and fewer officers, the police have to prioritise with sexual offences, concerns over terrorism and cyber crime being given a higher priority than car crime or burglary.
In response to The Times article, colleague Duncan Heenan dashed off a letter the same day:
If Sara Thornton (Times 29/7/15) does not want the police to waste their time responding to unimportant matters, she needs to start by pointing them at the CPS Guideline on handling incidents involving Naturism, which points out that, unless some criminal act is involved, non-sexual nudity in public is not illegal. This message has still not been understood by most front line officers, who will rush around at the mention of a peacefully naked person as if a murder was in progress.
For over 2 years NAG has been leading a joint project with BN to address the issue of how the police and Courts deal with naturism. As part of this, we have produced the following report of our survey on the adoption of the new CPS guidelines. This report has now been sent to the Association of Chief Police Officers, The Association of Police & Crime Commissioners, The College of Policing, and the Director of Public Prosecutions (head of the CPS). We have asked for a meeting to discuss our findings. This project will continue by cooperative consultation, and when there are any significant developments they will be reported here.
Apologies for any loss of formatting of the report in posting it here
Joint report on the study of the uptake of Crown Prosecution Service Guidance ‘Nudity in Public –
Guidance on handling cases of Naturism ’[September 2013], by Police Authorities in England & Wales.
- Police & Crime Commissioners do not consider consider ensuring consistent and accurate application of the law in this respect, to be their ‘business’.
- Police & Crime Commissioners do not consider saving money by avoiding mistakes to be their ‘business’.
- Inconsistent responses and intentions from Police Forces.
- Low priority given to inclusion of CPS Guidelines in Police training
- Slow and patchy uptake of the ‘new approach’ generally.
- Little acknowledgement for the need for change within Police Forces, despite the CPS Guidelines.
Background & Reason for the study
There has been increasing concern within the naturist community in recent years, at the attention naturism has occasionally attracted by the police. Though there have been many instances of police reacting proportionately and appropriately to reports of nudity in public places, there have also been incidents, sometimes resulting in prosecutions. As a result we began to gather data on these incidents with a view to approaching the Authorities to seek a fairer and more consistent application of the Law to naturism than we felt had been happening. Personal views of police and judges seemed to be driving events too much, often with little reference to any actual harm done (of which there was none in any incident studied). There seemed to be an informal institutional prudery in police and courts alike, which led to a disproportionate reaction to any incident involving nudity in public, or even some private, places. This caused great distress to those who were subject to heavy handed policing, wasted public resources, and did not serve the public interest. Of those cases taken to Court, the majority resulted in acquittals.
In September 2013, as our study period was approaching its conclusion and a submission to the Authorities, the Crown Prosecution Service published ‘Nudity in Public – Guidance on handling cases of Naturism.’ (Shown in Appendix 1) Effectively this acknowledged that the CPS shared some of our concerns, particularly in the use of Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 by police, to try to criminalise non-aggressive, non-sexual nudity. The CPS guidance addressed some (though not all) of our concerns, but it contained no mechanism within it to ensure that its guidance filtered down to police officers who have to make initial operational decisions. We therefore decided to contact every Police Authority in England & Wales to draw their attention to the CPS Guidance, express our views and ask them what plans they had to train their police officers in it. This report summarised the results of that exercise.
On 20th November 2013, letters (shown at appendix 2) were sent to all 42 Police forces, plus the Association of Chief Police Officers (‘ACPO’) and the College of Policing. The same letter was also sent to all 42 Police & Crime Commissioners, plus the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners (‘APCCs’). Responses were received by letter, email and telephone over the succeeding 12 weeks. The responses are summarised and tabulated below. A number of acknowledgements were received but never followed up with a response, and a number of Police Forces and PCCs did not respond at all (as marked).
The results are summarised in the table below. Copies of all responses and other correspondence are available to authorised users on https://www.bn.org.uk/campaigning/wiki.php/_/policing/general-policy-and-training-r35 .
Of the 42 PCCs contacted 4 acknowledged receipt, but did not reply. In addition 25 did not respond at all, making a total of 29 who did not reply.
Of the 13 PCCs who replied, all considered the CPS’s Guidance on Nudity in Public, and any police responses, to be an operational police matter, and made no meaningful comment beyond that. The Association of PCC’s made the same remark, commenting also that national guidance on police training is the responsibility of the College of Policing, suggesting we contact them (which we already had). Only the PCC for West Yorkshire commented on the uptake of the CPS Guidelines within that police service, saying that it was to be incorporated within their training programme and published internally. West Yorkshire Police themselves did not respond.
Of the 42 Police Forces contacted, 6 acknowledged receipt, but did not reply. In addition 16 did not respond at all, making a total of 22 who did not reply (though this number includes West Yorkshire for whom their PCC made a reply).
Of the 20 Police Forces which replied 19 had no stated policy on dealing with incidents of public nudity, other than trusting the local officer to exercise jusgment of the actual situation. One (Cheshire) has a policy which is consistent with the new CPS Guidelines.
The replies from some police forces were phrased in very general terms, and therefore it was not always clear what was meant. In categorising the replies below, an element of judgment had to be used, as there was overlap of intent as well as uncertainty in some cases.
Of the 20 forces which responded (21 including W. Yorkshire whose PCC responded for them), 5 forces had no plans to include any specific training for front line officers to do with the CPS Guidelines. 8 were planning to publish the guidelines on websites or internal bulletin boards, but with no further training. 4 forces were intending to approach the issue by briefing specialist officers such as Diversity Officers or Custody Sergeants as internal ‘consultants’ to provide advice to operational officers involved in issues to do with public nudity. 4 Forces had undertaken, or were considering including specific training to all officers. 5 of the responses included comments suggesting a presumption that public nudity was likely to be a public order issue. 3 forces commented that public nudity incidents were not considered a current or past issue in their area, as there were few, if any, such incidents.
The College of Policing and ACPO did not respond at all.
Police & Crime Commissioners Survey, summary of responses
Policy on Nudity
Training re. CPS guidance
|Avon & SomersetIndependent||No response||No response|
|BedfordshireLabour||6/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|CambridgeshireConservative||5/12/13||Police operational matter||Police operational matter|
|CheshireConservative||25/11/13||Police operational matter||Police operational matter|
|City of LondonConservative||No response||No response|
|ClevelandLabour||No response||No response|
|DerbyshireLabour||No response||No response|
|Devon and CornwallConservative||5/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|DorsetIndependent||4/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|DurhamLabour||5/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|Dyfed PowysConservative||No response||No response|
|EssexConservative||27/11/13||No response||No response|
|GloucestershireIndependent||No response||No response|
|Greater ManchesterLabour||No response||No response|
|GwentIndependent||No response||No response|
|Hampshire &IOWIndependent||No response||No response|
|HertfordshireConservative||No response||No response|
|HumbersideConservative||No response||No response|
|KentIndependent||16/12/13||No comment||No comment|
|LancashireLabour||2/12/13||No response||No response|
|LeicestershireConservative||No response||No response|
|LincolnshireIndependent||19/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|MerseysideLabour||No response||No response|
|MetropolitanConservative||10/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|NorfolkIndependent||No response||No response|
|NorthamptonConservative||No response||No response|
|NorthumbriaLabour||12/12/13||Police Operational Matter||Police Operational Matter|
|North YorkshireConservative||No response||No response|
|North WalesIndependent||No response||No response|
|NottinghamshireLabour||No response||No response|
|South WalesLabour||No response||No response|
|South YorkshireLabour||No response||No response|
|StaffordshireConservative||25/11/13||No response||No response|
|SuffolkConservative||No response||No response|
|SurreyIndependent||No response||No response|
|SussexConservative||12/12/13||Police operational matter||Police operational matter|
|Thames ValleyConservative||No response||No response|
|WarwickshireIndependent||9/12/13||No response||No response|
|West MerciaIndependent||No response||No response|
|West MidlandsLabour||27/11/13||31/1/13||Police operational matter||Police operational matter.|
|West YorkshireLabour||27/11/13||17/1/14||Police operational matter||W.Yorks police are developing a training programme which will incorporate CPS guidelines. Also published internally.|
|WiltshireConservative||No response||No response|
|Association of P.C.C.s||26/11/13||Police operational matter||College of Policing sets national training standards. Decision should lie with them.|
Police Authority Chief
NAG activists meet twice a year to discuss our projects and over the weekend 14th/15th September 2013, we held our autumn meeting on the Isle of Wight. Apart from Duncan Heenan, Peter Knight, John Paine, Harvey Allen and myself, we also invited two others to provide some outside input: Sam Hawcroft, editor of H&E Naturist and Tim Forcer, naturist and academic.
The range of topics covered was wide and what is present here is a snapshot of the discussion that took place.
Government and Law Enforcement Agencies
Duncan told the meeting that he was making good progress in completing his report to be sent to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Ministry of Justice among others and on schedule to have the first draft completed by the end of 2013. Just before the meeting however, the CPS (Crown Prosecuting Service) released guidance notes to prosecuting lawyers on how naturists, arrested for being naked in a public place, should be treated and this was still being studied at the time.
Post meeting: Duncan discussed the implications of the guidance notes with Malcolm Boura – Research and Liaison Officer (RLO) for BN – and they concluded that a change to their strategy and report will be necessary and as a consequence, it will have a minor impact on their schedule.
British Naturism leads the campaign for the restoration of Holkham Beach to naturist use, but regular user and committee member Andy Crawford (not in attendance), has also campaigned on his own account. He informed the committee (by email) that a meeting with Holkham Estate’s management has been arranged by BN but saw no prospect of the ban being overturned. His dealings with the Norfolk PCC (Police and Crime Commissioner) also suggested that he supported the police’s actions in supporting the ban.
Post meeting: Malcolm Boura announced through Naturist Freedom that The Crown Estate has backed down following a strongly worded legal argument prepared by David Wolfe QC and they have lifted the ban on naturists using Holkham Beach below the Mean High Water mark. The ban on naturism above it is still in place.
The London Question
Following the aborted “Picnic in the Park”, designed to demonstrate that naturists and other park users could co-exist side-by-side, committee members John Paine (TLQ project leader), Harvey Allen and Duncan Heenan met with senior management figures from the City of London Corporation. Although they were unable to persuade them to allow naturism on Hampstead Heath and other large open spaces under their control, the TLQ delegation obtained a clearer understanding of The Corporation’s concerns and their wish to discourage behaviours they did not want to be associated with (e.g. dogging). They believe naturism would encourage them.
At a following TLQ meeting it was decided to wind down the project, believing it has taken naturism in London as far as it can. In its place the Hampstead Heath Naturist Project Group has been created. While NAG does not want the whole focus to be on Hampstead Heath, it is our belief that there is greater potential for success with Hampstead Heath than in other areas. Based on the Beach User Group concept it will allow naturists in the area to engage more easily with The Corporation and other stakeholders concerned with the heath and its local environment. They have already held two meetings to devise a strategy and if you would like to show your support, or give a hand, please email John Paine via the website.
Help from Supporters
At the autumn 2012 meeting, a number of initiatives that would allow greater participation by our supporters without them making an open ended commitment was considered. A year later, these were re-considered and here are four suggestions that will take no more than 30-minutes of your time, as and when they occur:
- Cuttings from the local press are a good source of information. If you see an article that would be of interest, why not scan it and email it to nag AT naturistactiongroup DOT org, or if you prefer, cut it out and send it to our postal address. (Don’t forget to tell us the name of the newspaper and the date of publication, along with your own name and contact details, which will not be passed on to anyone else.)
- Write a letter to the editor or comment on a newspaper’s website in response to an article. A letter (or email) is still an effective way to get your opinion across, which may gain more support locally than you’d think. To be published, you must include your name and address, which can be withheld if requested, and a contact number. Writing a comment on their web page is even simpler and quicker.
- Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests are made to public bodies (e.g. police services) and can be made in writing by any member of the public (letter or email) asking specific information. For example, as Holkham Beach is private property the police cannot act without the estate’s management’s permission, which has is a cost to the public purse. Therefore, a member of the public is entitled ask how much this support is costing Norfolk Police. Similar FOI requests can be made to other police services and public bodies, whose actions have an adverse effect on naturists.
- The Forestry Commission (for England and Scotland) and Natural Resources Wales are encouraging greater public use for their woodlands through tourism and leisure activity ideas. There is potential for some of these activities to be carried out naked but suitable sites and activities need to be identified and the initial enquires made. These public bodies are not the only owners of woodland however, and farmers and landowners may also be willing to consider an approach to make better use of an asset that may not be fully utilised.
Afterwards, please tell us about what you did and of any outcomes, not forgetting to include your name and contact details to nag AT naturistactiongroup DOT org.
The accounts for NAG have already been published on the website and shows a steady recovery for our funds from a low in 2011, when we published the leaflet “You and the Law”. What does not appear in these accounts at present, and will do so in the future, are the contributions in kind made largely by the committee members who pay their own expenses for travelling to the bi-annual meetings and on occasion, accommodation. Nor do these figures take into account a very generous gift of £200 made by an anonymous donor after these accounts were compiled. Thank you, whoever you are.
In an effort to raise funds so NAG can campaign for naturism and promote it, and raise its profile among naturists, the group launched a photo competition with the support of Astbury Formentera and H&E Naturist, in June 2013, with the result published in the January 2014 issue of H&E Naturist.
Unbelievably, 1st April 2013 saw the second anniversary of our founding as an organisation and thought it was about time that I, as chairman, explained what is passing over my desk and map out a possible future path. When my colleagues and I embarked on this mad journey to gain greater acceptance of naturism in British public life, we knew it would be a long, hard road and the support of others was of great importance. During NAG’s short life we have grown to more than 200 supporters and we are continuing to grow. Of course, this is nothing to the membership of British Naturism, believed to be about 10,000, but they do have a 58-year start on us, so give us time.
Perhaps the hardest thing I’ve had to do over the past two years is to convince some in BN that their perception of NAG as a threat to its existence was erroneous, and believe that as an organisation, we still have some work to do there. As a first step, last Autumn I was able to tell BN’s membership directly what the Naturist Action Group was, and perhaps more importantly, wasn’t with the clarity that had not been achieved before and the passing of this information to you is overdue. Anyway, I am sure the relationship between NAG and BN will improve, as we both want to arrive at the same destination, even if the paths we take diverge from time-to-time.
The Naturist Action Group has been
After the publication of the article on Steve Gough in April a few comments were made here, which were broadly supportive. Oddly enough, not long afterwards – and purely by coincidence – Gough came up as a topic of conversation on the Yahoo group forum, naturists UK that confirmed my opinion on how divisive he is among naturists and I don’t suppose it will end any time soon.
I have no intention to go over old ground, however I would like to pursue an idea that was put forward (by Peter Knight, as it happens) among the comments; that we should use Gough’s plight in Scotland to gain publicity about the wider problems naturists have when they encounter the justice system. We could, and I believe we should.
Gough is held under the common law offence of breach of the (monarch’s) peace, which the Court of Appeal in R v Howell, has defined as: ‘an act done or threatened to be done which either actually harms a person, or in his presence, his property, or is likely to cause such harm being done.’  However, following Bibby v Chief
The case of the man accused of indecency for doing his garden in the nude has been thrown out by Cheltenham magistrates. This is a triumph for common sense and a confirmation that there is nothing illegal about simple nudity in the garden. It also shows that you should not jump to conclusions and pre-judge cases based on what the CPS says alone, which is what BN did in shunning this innocent man and refusing to take any interest in his case.
The press report is on:
NAG volunteers attended the trial and provided the accused with support.