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  • Free Range Naturism - Legal Guidance

    DISCLAIMER: The BN Legal Group are not qualified lawyers and therefore cannot give the sort of Legal Advice that members might obtain from a Solicitor or Barrister. We do, however, know this small area of the Law pretty well, and have been involved in briefings with qualified lawyers on a number of occasions.

    Key Points

    1. Carry the Legal Guidance for England, Wales and Scotland issued by BN when out walking (we are currently working on guidelines for Northern Ireland).
    2. Do get dressed if a police officer tells you to.
    3. Do not accept that you are doing anything unlawful.
    4. Do not agree in any way that what you are doing could be wrong or could 'offend' someone else.
    5. Do not accept a Caution without first getting proper legal advice.
    6. Members who encounter any trouble (and remember this is very rare: about 6 cases in the last 5 years!) should in the first instance contact the General Secretary.

    Further Information

    • Naturism, put briefly, is lawful in the UK. Nudity either in private or in public is lawful as stated in Parliamentary Law.  When debating the Sexual Offences Act in 2003, Parliament ruled unequivocally that Naturism is lawful and does not constitute a criminal offence even in public.
    • In 2013 the Director of Public Prosecutions issued new guidance to the Crown Prosecution Service on the lawfulness of Naturism and the inappropriateness of seeking to arrest or charge someone for simple nudity without behaviour likely to cause “alarm harassment or distress”. In actual fact this refers to fear of serious violence, riot or affray, not simple nudity! The Anti Social Behaviour Act also requires this higher threshold of "behaviour" and not the "nuisance or annoyance" first proposed, largely thanks to BN's lobbying.  The National College of Policing has also received training guidance based on the DPP's guidance, though in some areas it is taking time to filter down to frontline officers.
    • Naturism is also a state of dress, not a behaviour. It is difficult to charge someone who is doing something lawful, undressed, for inappropriate or criminal behaviour. Basically, if it's lawful clothed; it's lawful naked, therefore someone walking, sunbathing, swimming or gardening should have nothing to fear.
    • Unfortunately there are always a few people who dislike Naturism and will complain, though this is insufficient reason for police officers or Neighbourhood teams to seek to gain a prosecution on the grounds of the Public Order Act, which makes "behaviour likely to cause alarm, harassment or distress" unlawful. In any case dislike or prejudice does not constitute alarm, harassment or distress.
    • It is worth remembering that Naturism as a philosophical belief without a deity has been accepted in Courts as a Protected Characteristic under Section 10 of the Equalities Act 2010 which makes it a crime to discriminate against Naturists or treat them less favourably than other groups. This might mean that the prudes who complain are guilty of unlawful behaviour.
    • It is also worth remembering that, though individual police officers may suggest that repeating naked walks etc might be unlawful, they are unable to criminalise a Naturist for repeating something that is lawful, even if someone else doesn't like it. This was clearly established by Lord Justice Sedley.
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