British Naturism, the organisation which promotes and protects the interests of the millions of Naturists in the United Kingdom, believes that proposals included in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill will be used to close down naturist beaches and even prevent naturists from sunbathing naked in their own gardens or clubs. It is not just naturists who will fall foul of this bill, but any minority group - everyone from dog walkers to kite flyers. If the council do not like it, they could prohibit it.
Ministers say anti-social behaviour could include possession of a can of spray paint in a public place, entering an area, or being drunk in public, which is true. What they don't say is that the definition is so wide, (annoyance or nuisance to anyone), that it could include just about anything and it could be used to target Naturists., Given the appalling record of some councils, we fully expect them to use this bill to harass naturists and prohibit Naturism.
Malcolm Boura, British Naturism’s Research and Liaison Officer, said: ‘If history teaches us anything, it is that if a power can be abused, then it will be abused. We have absolutely no doubt that if it becomes law as currently-worded, then it will be used to prohibit Naturism in a wide range of places. Beaches and gardens are a certainty and it may even include naturist events and clubs.’”
“The Government is claiming that this just consolidates existing legislation but it goes much further than that. It makes it harder to challenge, it lowers the standard of proof, it broadens the scope, it introduces secrecy and it introduces civil penalties. The penalties may not be criminal but it still results in a record - and that can blight a career. In the past Parliament has declared that they have no intention of making Naturism illegal and we suspect that is still the case, it is the unintended consequences of this legislation that concerns us.
On a beach, a policeman will claim that annoyance is being caused and will issue a two-day ban from the locality, which may be a very large area. That is punishment without even a charge!
Councils will be able to ban anything that they do not like and in areas where the council refuses to take a constructive approach, we will see the piecemeal prohibition of naturist beaches.
“Crucially, there is no requirement to consult with anyone apart from the police. That is neither democracy nor justice. If we don't hear about the order, we can't challenge it. That is not justice. There will be a six-week limit for challenges leaving almost no time to prepare. That is not justice.
“Challenges will only be through the prohibitively-expensive High Court. That is not justice. A local authority could impose a banning order in December in near-total secrecy and by the time that it is discovered the following spring, there would be nothing that could be done about it. That is not justice.“
Mr Boura warned: “It will lead to the creeping criminalisation of beach Naturism and an increase in body-prejudice with all the problems which that causes. An approach such as this doesn’t work - it only creates resentment among law-abiding people who suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
“The Bill is vast, yet all the provisions suffer from a lack of sensible definition. The law should be easy to understand. It should not be necessary to hire expensive lawyers to find out what it means. Yet councils and the police will use our taxpayers’ money hiring expensive lawyers trying to justify their actions.”
British Naturism is urging people to write to their local MP and express their worries.. Mr Boura said: “The Government are trying to rush this bill through the House of Commons before the summer recess on July 18. We need to act quickly so that MPs are aware of our concerns.”
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Research and Liaison Officer
30-32 Wycliffe Rd, Northampton, NN1 5JF.
Notes for Editors
British Naturism (BN) is the UK’s officially recognised naturist organisation. It exists to support and unite naturists around the UK and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014, although its predecessors were in existence since the 1930s.
Amongst the aims of BN are to campaign for more places to be made available for naturism and to protect naturists against discrimination and Victorian attitudes to the human body.
Fact – in law, there is no offence of nudity. Various pieces of legislation and common law are often mentioned in connection with naturism but they are rarely relevant.
In the UK, there are over 130 sun clubs, swim clubs and holiday resorts and many beaches used regularly by naturists. Membership of BN is around 10,500 people with many more being members of clubs affiliated to BN.
YBN (Young British Naturists) has a membership of young men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 who get together at clubs and beaches many weekends. They represent the UK at the International Naturist Federation (INF) Youth Rally held annually
Naturism is good for you! Naturists report improvements in well-being, stress, chronic illness, self-esteem and body image. It’s also a sensible choice of dress when the weather is warm. Naturists are normal people. The only difference between activities inside and outside of naturism is the dress code.
It is a fallacy to believe that naked children are any more at risk in a naturist environment. Unaccompanied children are not permitted in naturist places and the community spirit that pervades ensures that a watchful eye is present. Despite the perception, there are far fewer problems in naturism than in more “public” places where children and adults mix. Mindful of the need to be aware of child safeguarding issues, however, BN have a robust child safeguarding policy, code of practice, and a Child Safeguarding sub-committee that meets regularly and runs workshops on the subject, sometimes to groups from outside the naturist world.
For the media, there is a dedicated “Media Centre” at http://www.bn.org.uk/media, which contains useful information for those wishing to write about naturism or to feature this wonderful world in their publications or programmes.