In September 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service issued 'Nudity in Public - Guidance on Handing Cases of Naturism' to CPS prosecutors and all police services, which provides proportionate guidance to police officers who have to make initial decisions where public nudity is reported or witnessed. It indicated that Naturism in a public place should not be charged unless there is a clear breach of the law. Many Naturists have been charged and convicted under section 5 of the Public Order Act; a law intended to curb public disturbances, only for it to be overturned in a higher court.
The Naturist Action Group (NAG) and British Naturism (BN) at first welcomed the move by the CPS and saw it as a positive step but little has been done to inform police officers that it even exists. During her speech to the Police Federation on 21st May 2014, the Home Secretary – The Rt. Hon Theresa May MP – stated three times that the College of Policing was introduced to drive up standards and to improve the professionalism of the police services throughout England and Wales, but BN and NAG are disheartened to learn that the CPS does not intend to take any action to persuade the police to give adequate training to their officers.
The full guidance can be read at http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/l_to_o/nudity_in_public.
Incidents of public nudity have frequently been subject to disproportionate and heavy handed action, based on prejudice, prudery and an inadequate understanding of the law (nudity is legal in a much wider range of circumstances than some people assume). Such actions have caused immense distress to those involved, and represent a poor use of taxpayers' money. Whilst the CPS Guidance addressed most of the Naturists’ concerns, it contained no mechanism to ensure that it cascaded down to the frontline officers who are expected to make initial assessments in cases of public nudity. BN and NAG therefore undertook research to establish how UK police forces were implementing the guidance in practice to ensure proportionate and cost effective decisions. The results can be found below. The full report can be viewed at http://naturistactiongroup.org/2014/04/report-on-the-acpo-project-uptake-of-the-cps-guidelines/
Reg Barlow, Chairman of the Naturist Action Group, said:
“I find it ironic, when the coalition Government is still talking about needing to make savings in public expenditure while driving up standards, the police services, the College of Policing and the CPS all seem to be ignoring something that could save them significant amounts of public money and many hours of police officers’ time, just by giving officers training on how to handle public nudity properly."
Malcolm Boura, Campaigns Director for British Naturism, said:
"Those practising innocent public nudity even in the privacy of their own garden, have often been subject to a heavy handed police action, causing great distress. The CPS Guidelines, whilst not perfect, are an attempt to bring consistency and sensible application of the law to bear on this issue. Worryingly there seems to be little appetite to embed the guidelines in police forces, or to train officers to act in a sensible and proportionate way. The end result is that Naturists will continue to be subject to abuses of the law, and taxpayers' money will continue to be wasted in pursuing these actions. Police Officers cannot be expected to do their job properly if nobody has told them what the law actually is and how best to respond to cases of gymnophobia.”
“Naturists have been caused alarm and distress by being dragged through the legal process and it is completely unacceptable that it can cost thousands of pounds to defend oneself against a charge that is not even a crime. If the Home Secretary, the CPS and the College of Policing were serious about improving standards then this training would be mandatory for all front line officers."
- Of the 42 police forces, 22 did not reply.
- Of the 20 who did reply, 19 had no policy on dealing with incidents of public nudity, other than trusting frontline officers to exercise judgement. Only Cheshire Police had a policy consistent with the new guidelines.
- Of the 20 forces who replied, 5 had no plans to carry out training around the guidelines, 8 were planning to publish the guidelines internally, 4 were intending to brief specialist officers and 4 had undertaken, or were planning, training to all officers.
- Disappointingly, neither the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) nor the College of Policing responded at all.
- Only 13 Police and Crime Commissioners out of 42 responded and all of these considered public nudity and the CPS Guidelines to be an operational policing matter. They ignored the injustice and waste of tax payers money caused by mistakes.
– ENDS –
British Naturism – Parliamentary, legal and societal matters. Campaigns Director Malcolm Boura, firstname.lastname@example.org: 07734 964435.
Naturist Action Group – Duncan Heenan: 01983 730352,
British Naturism – all other media enquiries - Andrew Welch, email@example.com: 01753 481527 or 07774 955138.
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 celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014, although its predecessors were in existence since the 1930s. http://www.bn.org.uk
Naturist Action Group is a ‘think tank’ dedicated to research and campaigning for greater acceptance of Naturism as a lifestyle in British society. http://naturistactiongroup.org/
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. www.bn.org.uk/campaigning/index.php.
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. See Crown Prosecution Service guidance on Naturism for details. There is inadequate protection against prejudice, misunderstanding of the law, and abuses of the law, and that can result in Naturists finding themselves in difficulties
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 10,000 people with many more being members of clubs affiliated to BN. http://www.bn.org.uk/activities/placestogo.
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. http://ybn.org.uk.
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 is the dress code.
Children are no more at risk in a Naturist environment than anywhere else. 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 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.