In this post, we look at the legality of naturism by asking Is Public Nudity Legal? In short, yes, but here is a more in depth look at the question which, as you will appreciate, can be quite complex depending on circumstances.
So, is public nudity legal? Yes. There is no law that says being naked in public is a crime however we need to consider the circumstances and also where in the UK you happen to be naked as Scotland has different rules to England and Wales.
Lindsay Brown of the BBC wrote quite an excellent article on this subject which can be found here and much of what she says is still applicable. Lots of work has been done to ensure that naturists rights are protected under law and even the Crown Prosecution Service and the College of Policing have guidance on the subject.
In a nutshell, nudity in public is not illegal; the only time it becomes illegal is with intent – that is, the intent to “cause distress or alarm”. So the simple act of being naked in a public place is not illegal BUT when the intention is to cause distress or alarm (so flashing, stripping in front of people etc.) then it becomes illegal.
Let’s also put this in context for the naturist. Walking naked in the countryside – no problem. Walking naked past a primary school at kicking out time (as in the case of Stephen Gough) totally out of order. Walking naked in your streets – not illegal but is society ready for this nudity? Perhaps not just yet. How about sunbathing in your back garden nude? Perfectly OK although if your neighbours can see, perhaps it might be worth having a conversation with them first; just to let them know you will be naked in the back garden.
So let’s put this into context; nudity in public is NOT a crime (unless your intention is to cause distress and alarm) but as naturists, we should be mindful that society is not quite ready but there is also nothing wrong with pushing the boundaries slightly.