THERE is no doubt that if I saw a naked man walking along a road, near a play park or some shops, an old people’s home or even just some fields dotted with entirely uninterested sheep, I would be taken aback.
I might even feel a bit worried. What are his intentions? Why is he naked? How cold must he be?
But, whatever my concern or consternation, I would not think it reasonable for that man to be locked up in prison, often in solitary confinement, for more than six years for his actions. Really, can anyone?
And yet, Stephen Gough, the Naked Rambler, has been banged up 20 times in the last ten years. His crime? Nudity. He refuses to wear clothes and, by doing so, he offends people.
I don’t share Gough’s particular penchant. It’d have to be at least 15 degrees warmer with absolutely no risk of sunburn for me to shed my clobber beyond the confines of my home. But I cannot believe, no matter how I try, that Gough being jailed and released and jailed again is right. Nor can I believe that those people who see Gough (surely they know it’s him; after all, he’s been doing this for more than a decade) then call 999 are doing the right thing either.
Last week, Gough was sentenced to five months in prison just days after serving his last sentence for breach of the peace. The sheriff lost patience and accused Gough of arrogance and self-indulgence. Well, that seems a mite harsh to me. Being locked in a cell for up to 23 hours a day doesn’t seem like much of an indulgence from where I am sitting.
I’m not saying this is easy. I’m not saying that Gough is making it easy. But let’s be clear: Gough doesn’t threaten anyone. He doesn’t insist that others should be naked too. The police have tried to come up with ways of avoiding having to arrest him, but they have failed. I’m thinking that maybe what he needs is an escort like the one the Olympic flame was given to see him safely on his way.
“There’s nothing about me as a human being that is indecent or alarming or offensive,” Gough said during one of his recent court appearances, where he defended himself. “I have nothing to be ashamed about. I’m just a bloke standing up for the truth of what I am.”
Honestly, I don’t entirely get it, but I just can’t take issue with that.
• NEW figures show that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the number of hate crimes committed against disabled people in 2011 rose by a third from the year before.
Things are no better up here. In figures released in May 2012, the rise in incidents from the previous year was even higher, at nearly 42 per cent.
Now square that with your experience of watching those crowds cheering the Paralympians achieving their astonishing feats of skill and endurance. It doesn’t work, does it?
• NOT that I want to rake over old coals (and by that I mean last week’s column), but if you’re still feeling a bit bothered by bosoms I’ve got something for you. A woman called Lucy-Anne Holmes has decided to boldly go where Clare Short once boldly went and call for Page 3 to be scrapped.
She’s set up an online petition (google “page 3 petition” and you’ll find it) and a Twitter account to build support. There’s talk of a song and a boycott of advertisers to come. Good on her, I say. Sign up, why don’t you? «
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West