Naturists and CO2 protesters are combining forces this Saturday (9th June) for a naked bike ride through London.
The ride, described as ‘liberating’ by Time Out, will assemble at Hyde Park before a nine-mile route past London landmarks brings it back to starting point.
Organisers expect around 1,000 people to strip off whatever the weather. It is billed as ‘an annual protest against oil dependency and the culture of cars, as well as a celebration of the human body’.
Similar rides are planned for Cardiff and Exeter on the same day, Brighton and Bristol on Sunday, and Glasgow on 14th July. (STOP PRESS 05/07/2012: Glasgow Naked Bike Ride was cancelled! Strathclyde Police said ‘the organisers have cancelled their plans after liasing with Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Police’.)
The dress code is said to be ‘as bare as you dare’. Full nudity is apparently optional, although photographs of previous events show that particular option to have been taken up by the majority of the exhibitionists taking part.
Despite the much-vaunted antagonism of most participants to oil and petrochemicals, none of those taking part will be stripping off their trainers, which cannot be made without petro-derivatives. Comfort apparently takes precedence over principled opposition to oil-industry products.
More seriously, the event will not just expose those parts of the body more politely concealed, but the inability of our current laws to proscribe indecent behaviour.
The English common law offence of ‘indecent exposure’ is declining in use (see statistics link below) in the face of Section 66 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 which applies to England and Wales. Section 70 of the The Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 is identical. This reads:
66 Exposure E+W+N.I A person commits an offence if— .
(a) he intentionally exposes his genitals, and .
(b) he intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress. .
(2)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable— .
(a)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both; .
(b)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.]
With the prosecution having to prove an intent to cause alarm or distress, it appears that only men who deliberately expose themselves to women in the street – so-called ‘flashers’ – are now being prosecuted. Anyone intent on merely flaunting his (or her) nudity in public can drive a coach and horses, or in this case, merely a bicycle, through the legislation.
‘Modern case law has established two elements that must be satisfied for the offence to be committed:
’1.The act was of such a lewd character as to outrage public decency; this element constituted the nature of the act which had to be proved before the offence could be established, and
’2.it took place in a public place and must have been capable of being seen by two or more persons who were actually present, even if they had not actually seen it.
‘The offence is currently prosecuted around 400-500 times per year.’
Which brings us back to the common law offence of indecent exposure. This is still prosecuted (see link on prosecutions above. Either offence could possibly be brought into play if enough people complain to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police or to the relevant chief constables of the other forces.
In Scotland the law, not having the liberal Sexual Offences Act 2003 on this matter, is slightly stronger. Despite that, a similar naked bike ride took place in Glasgow last year and was escorted by the Strathclyde Police. This year it is scheduled to take place on 14th July and concerned members of the public north of the border will no doubt be speaking to the police.
‘Source: Common Law
‘Any person who publicly exposes the private parts of their body in a shameless and indecent manner in the presence of the lieges commits a crime at common law.
‘There must be a lewd and indecent intention, mere carelessness is not criminal.
‘Although the definition uses the term “any person”, generally speaking, only males are charged with this crime. A female who exposes the private parts of her body could competently be reported for a breach of the peace, lewd practices or shameless indecency, depending upon the circumstances.
‘Powers: Common law power of arrest. ‘
On top of that is the Scottish catch-all offence of ‘breach of the peace’. Naturist Stephen Gough, who goes by the name of The Naked Rambler, was convicted and sent to prison in Scotland after being found guilty of breach of the peace.
Much depends on what the police perceive as public attitudes. If no-one is bothered in today’s climate, they won’t bother either. On the other hand, if there is significant public concern the police might take action. With around 500 offences of outraging public decency prosecuted a year in England and Wales, and with prosecutions still being carried out in Scotland for indecency offences, this remains a live issue.
Please pray that enough people will be outraged by these displays of indecency on our streets to complain to the police forces concerned:
Avon & Somerset Constabulary
Devon & Cornwall Constabulary
South Wales Police
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