What is public nudity?
Public nudity is a unique issue as there is no specific law forbidding a person from being nude in public in England & Wales. However, if that person’s nudity causes harassment, alarm or distress to the public, it is an offence contrary to s 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. In the case of Gough (Stephen Peter) v Director of Public Prosecutions, the defendant was charged under the said Act for walking naked through a town centre and causing persons to become alarmed, distressed and disgusted at seeing the defendant naked. His appeal was dismissed as he had knowingly violated public order, thereby contributing to a breakdown of peaceful and law abiding ...view middle of the document...
A person feeling shameful embarassment is not sufficient reason for taking away a person’s freedom by imprisonment or his right to express himself under art. 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Public nudity also does not fit the criteria of the offense principle as individuals have the option to look away or avoid the uncomfortable situation.
Offense and the liberal conception of the law
It can be argued that modes of dress can be much more suggestive of sex or much more embarassing than mere nudity. This embarassment stems from moral views which are an unacceptable basis in a liberal state as the society has varying moral views and one person’s moral view should not be regarded as more important than the other. Anthony Ellis states that some people are extremely embarassed by public nudity but there is no significant evidence that any person chosen at random would feel embarassed by a nude body. Society has evolved far from the Victorian era where women were not allowed to bare their ankles. The question of whether the acts of an individual may cause offence to others is a very subjective one. Given the changing moral values and standards that are more typical of a liberal society, behaviour that once was offensive may be quite acceptable or at the least, tolerable. A person’s expression of his naked body is not harmful or offensive to a society.
Justification for decriminalisation of public nudity
Some persons claim that nudity undermines public hygiene, attracts public attention, arousing...