A Look At Nudity and Decency Laws Applicable In the UK
A Look At Nudity and Decency Laws Applicable In the UK

The rules in the UK surrounding nudity in public are not necessarily well known so here is an overview of the relevant laws.

Do UK Laws Ban Being Naked In Public?

While it is not an offence to be naked in public in both England and Wales, under some circumstances it can become one .

When a complainant is able to prove that another person stripped off with the intention to shock others or cause upset, it can become an offence.

There is also no specific Scottish law that bars public nudity, but again incidents can be treated as offences when classified as “offending public decency” or as a “breach of the peace.” Here as well, a member of the public would need to prove they had been put in a state of alarm or distress by the incident.

The Crown Prosecution Service has stated that “a balance needs to be struck” between the right of freedom of expression of a naturist and the right of the public to be remain protected from harassment, alarm or distress.

Nudity and decency laws for the UK

In the regions of England and Wales, the two legal statutes that are most likely to be applicable could be

  • Section Five Public Order Act 1986, and
  • Section 66 Sexual Offences Act 2003 for aggressive nudity

Section Five Public Order Act 1986

Under Section Five Public Order Act 1986, a person is said to commit an offence if they “use threatening [or abusive] words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or display any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening [or abusive]” done in the hearing or sight of another person which is likely to cause alarm, harassment, or distress .

Section 66 Sexual Offences Act 2003

Under this, a person is seen as committing an offence if they “intentionally exposes his genitals, and intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress.”

A person deemed guilty under this section can face summary conviction of jail time of not more than six months or a fine of not more than the statutory maximum or both. A person convicted on indictment becomes eligible to be sentenced to prison for a period of not more than two years.

Well-known cases of nude arrests

Steve Gough, who is also known as the Naked Rambler, has been imprisoned almost continuously for years now due to his refusal to wear clothes either in public, in court or in prison.

So far he has been convicted of nearly 17 offences for breaching the peace for walking naked since he came into the public eye in 2003 when he walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats naked.

The “oddball” ex-marine has always denied the charges filed against him, stating that courts ordering him to put on his clothes were in breach of the Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.



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