British 'Naked Rambler' case doesn't stand up in court

Britain's "Naked Rambler" Stephen Gough, in a screenshot from a BBC documentary on YouTube. The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected a case brought by Gough, saying his freedoms had not been transgressed by his multiple convictions
Britain's "Naked Rambler" Stephen Gough, in a screenshot from a BBC documentary on YouTube. The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected a case brought by Gough, saying his freedoms had not been transgressed by his multiple convictions for nudity. -- PHOTO: BBC, YOUTUBE

STRASBOURG, France (AFP) - The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday rejected a case brought by Britain's "Naked Rambler", saying his freedoms had not been transgressed by his multiple convictions for nudity.

Stephen Gough, 55, has spent more than seven years in total behind bars after repeatedly being arrested for rambling the highways and byways of Britain in the nude.

The former marine took Britain to the Strasbourg-based court on the grounds that his freedom of expression and right to respect for private life had been impinged. But the European court rejected the claims by the rambler, who has twice walked the length of Britain with it all hanging out.

"The applicant's case is troubling, since his intransigence has led to his spending a substantial period of time in prison for what is, in itself, usually a relatively trivial offence," the court said in its ruling. "However, the applicant's imprisonment is the consequence of his repeated violation of the criminal law in full knowledge of the consequences."

Gough knows his naked rambling "not only goes against the standards of accepted public behaviour in any modern democratic society but also is liable to be alarming and morally and otherwise offensive to other, un-warned members of the public going about their ordinary business".

In Britain, judges have sentenced him for turning up in court naked when facing charges, and walking out of prison with nothing on also landed him straight back in trouble with the law.

"Without any demonstration of sensibility to the views of others and the behaviour that they might consider offensive, he insists upon his right to appear naked at all times and in all places, including in the courts, in the communal areas of prisons and on aeroplanes," the court said.

Gough said the decision was disappointing and vowed to continue.

"I was brought up to believe I lived in a country that celebrated eccentricity and difference," he said, which brings "variety and colour to the otherwise slavish conformity that can feel depressive, constricting and sometimes just downright boring.

"Without the freedom to express our individuality and uniqueness in our own way, something inside us dies."