Naturism in Public Places
s.5 Public Order Act 1986 should be clarified to reduce the scope for abuse. It must be made clear that this offence concerns behaviour which would cause significant offence to most reasonable people and terms such as disorderly should be clarified or removed.
s.4, s.4A Public Order Act 1986 and s.66 Sexual Offences Act should be clarified. Nudity is not in itself evidence of the intent required by these offences.
The common law offence of Outraging Public Decency should be repealed as it duplicates statutory offences (see BN response to Law Commission consultation) and it is inherently vague.
Repeal bye law enabling powers and revoke any associated bye laws, which are unused or vulnerable to abuse.
The ASBO system should be clarified and reduced in scope to prevent abuse.
Abolish all fixed penalties for which a realistic means of appeal can not be provided.
Police cautions should have a cooling off period. There must be a statutory duty for the police to ensure that the accused understands the consequences of accepting a caution.
Provide an accessible means of appeal against police records.
Why does this idea matter?
Vague, poorly defined law is vulnerable to abuse by the prejudiced and the protection to those who are harassed or wrongly prosecuted is grossly inadequate.
The only way to distinguish justified restrictions of freedom from prejudice is to show that the balance of harm and benefit is clearly in favour of the restriction. Harm due to a person's own prejudice, “It is causing me harm because I don't like it”, does not provide any justification.
A naturist was tried for Exposure, s.66 Sexual Offences Act, and acquitted. A year or so later, in essentially the same circumstances, he was tried again, and acquitted. He has had to mortgage his house to pay the legal bill. That is not justice.
An example of unused bye law enabling powers are those contained in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (Defra's attitude was that they are not causing a problem so don't do anything). An example of a ridiculous bye law is one that requires swim suits to cover from neck to knees.
Contesting a fixed penalty notice typically costs at least a thousand pounds and can cost over ten thousand. That is not justice.
Far too often people accept a caution without realising the significance and the likely consequences. We know of a case where a vulnerable person accepted a caution despite there being little prospect of conviction and a year later he was added to the sexual offenders register. That is not justice.
Police records can now have a devastating effect on a person's life. They can destroy a career. Obtaining a correction can take years of effort and cost a considerable amount. That is not justice.
These laws are often used to encourage or support the assumption that the body is inherently sexual and the misapprehension that the body is inherently offensive. The attitudes encouraged result in widespread and often serious harm. The correlations are strong and the mechanisms are well understood but there is incredible reluctance to face up to the facts. It is not coincidence that the more prudish countries have such appalling outcomes across a wide range of indicators when compared to the least prudish. Most indicators are at least several times worse and some, for example some sexually transmitted infections, are tens of times worse. Age at first intercourse, promiscuity, use of condom and contraception, teenage pregnancy, teenage abortion, sexually transmitted infections, breast feeding, body dysmorphic disorders, the demand for cosmetic surgery and many others. The pattern is the same. More prudish, worse outcomes.
We suspect that the same pattern repeats for child sexual abuse. If children and photographs of children are treated as if they are inherently sexual then people will come to believe that children are inherently sexual.