Cover up or face life in jail, naked rambler is warned

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The Independent Online

Naked rambler Stephen Gough has been warned he faces spending the rest of his life in prison if he continues to refuse to wear clothes in public.

The former Royal Marine, a veteran of two “boots-only” hikes from Land’s End to John O’Groats, has spent most of the last four years in solitary confinement in Scottish jails after stripping off on a flight to Edinburgh. Since then he has declined to wear prison uniform or to appear clothed in court resulting in further custodial sentences for contempt.

This week he was found guilty of causing a breach of the peace following his arrest as he left Perth prison in December where he had just finished serving a 12-month sentence for the same offence. On that and a previous occasion police have been waiting to re-arrest him at the prison gates.

Sheriff Lindsay Foulis told the 50-year-old father of two that it did not require "crystal ball gazing" to realise that the same scenario would be repeated if he continued to decline the offer to return to his home in Eastleigh, Hampshire in return for wearing clothes.

Ordering psychological and psychiatric reports she said: "When the day comes for you to be released, you will be apprehended and the same process gone through again.” But Mr Gough, who is now representing himself after parting company with his lawyer last year, said he accepted he could "potentially" remain in jail forever and added: "This is about individual freedom." It is estimated that the latest round of imprisonment has cost the tax payer in excess of £200,000 – a figure which looks set to keep mounting.

Mr Gough completed his first naked ramble across Britain in 2003 during which he was arrested 15 times and spent 140 nights in jail, mainly in Scotland where the authorities hold a dimmer view of public nudity than in England and Wales. He finished his second hike with his then girlfriend Melanie Roberts three years later.

But it was while returning to Edinburgh to appeal against contempt of court convictions in Scotland that he undressed on board an early morning flight from Bournemouth airport. Supporters have been urging him to appeal against his convictions for breach of the peace, citing rulings made in cases involving anti-nuclear protesters at Faslane. They say his behaviour does not constitute a “serious disturbance to the community” though some have grown dismayed at his refusal to co-operate.

He scuppered a deal to drive him naked from prison to Yorkshire under police escort by getting out of the car, it was claimed. Journalist and supporter Bob Janes said: “This seems like it will carry on and on. Both sides are too intransigent but the law is bigger than he is. He has still got a fairly loyal band of supporters but a lot of people think he has gone too far. I am a naturist myself but I am not doing jail time for it.”