The second Naked Walk from Land's End to John o'Groats which started Thursday 16th June 2006 ... accompanied by his girlfriend Melanie Roberts. He was arrested twice in England but almost immediately released. The legal system and many laws are different in Scotland and after crossing the border there were further arrests ... the current total being over 20 including contempt of court after he appeared naked before a judge. He served a three month sentence in HMP Edinburgh.
On this second historic walk, Steve was accompanied by his friend Melanie Roberts along the entire route. They were joined by several others, including ..., for anything from a few hours to a few weeks - all walkers always naked except for footware - and all almost always receiving support from the Great British public everywhere they went - until they reached Scotland.
The number of 'complaints' en-route were few - even fewer than on the first solo walk in 2003 to 2004 - with none 'actionable by police', until they reached Scotland. Despite the 'complaints' still being few and far between, these resulted in charges for Breach of the Peace. The law is different in Scotland. In some cases they were both initially found not guilty, despite Steve refusing to dress for court. Why compromise his beliefs? To do otherwise would be to pre-judge his case and imply that nudity and self-determination are only acceptable in certain places.
The naked ramblers are stopping at Stithians Reservoir tonight, near Falmouth. They went through Helston town centre on the way, police were there but left them alone, which is a good development.
The naked ramblers are staying in Harlyn Bay tonight which is near to Padstow, Cornwall. Lots of progress today in fine weather and all very enjoyable. The only 'incident' was some objections from a women en-route who seemed very offended, and ended up chasing one of the BBC cameramen who was filming the Ramblers! She ended up making a formal complaint at the local police station, but so far nothing else has been heard and no interventions by the police...
From how I understood it, the complaint she made was about her being filmed without her consent - it wasn't about us being naked - though she did have a problem about that which she was unwilling to discuss on camera - more's the pity, as usual, it was irrational. Her complaint from what I can remember went something like: why should I be subjected to seeing naked human beings in public, as if somehow we were forcing her to look. The real underlying cause of her objection is the unquestioned belief that the human body is offensive - which of course it isn't. Therefore she was prejudiced, was judging us based on her preconceived beliefs that she was too attached to (otherwise known as narrow-mindedness) to openly / honestly question within herself. Ring any bells?
The naked ramblers stayed in Bossiney, near Tintagel, on the beach last night. They plan to be in Glastonbury for the festival, so walking and notching up the miles is the main priority at the moment. They are still having lots of support from people of all ages along the route, and no hindrance from the police, even through the town centres where food and drinks were bought. Having a woman walking changes public opinion and it seems to make the nakedness more "ok", which is a fascinating insight to how we all view nakedness. A marked difference from the first walk and especially as last time Steve got arrested in the very same towns and villages... Early days though!
In Monmouth they were escorted by a 'Community Police Support Officer' who radioed in the presence of the 'Naked Ramblers', but no regular officers felt the need to attend. The escort went with them to the Sommerfield supermarket ,where they did a little shopping before continuing the walk along Offa's Dyke.
At 17:53: Steve, Mel and Jeff are in the process of being arrested for 'indecent exposure' by West Mercia Police at a place called Wem - which is just south of Manchester.
The BBC are filming the arrest, so at least it will be caught on camera. They expect to be released and are all keeping their clothes well and truly off... Nobody that they know of has complained, and in fact the locals have just bought them all cups of tea while they are waiting to be taken down the police station! Arrest No.1...
At 14:00: Currently Steve, Mel and Jeff are in police custody awaiting a court slot to determine a time that they can be charged with 'indecent exposure' by West Mercia Police. But an actual time has not been set as yet as the police will not let them appear in court naked. It is expected though that a court appearance will be arranged sooner rather than later (today or tomorrow) as the press are outside the court awaiting information from the police. This always tends to speed the process up somewhat!
At 15:15: Well, they have all been released now. Coming out of the court house naked to confront the awaiting press that had assembled outside. They had all been charged with Breach of the Peace(?) and were told to appear back at the same court on 15th August. By that time though they should all be in Scotland so how that will work is anyone's guess! They are currently being dropped back at the spot where they were arrested (just south of Manchester) so they can get on with the walk. Steve said they will have a little celebration tonight round the camp fire.
That night we stayed at the house of those people that gave us tea - me and Jeff slept in a Wendy House up a tree, can't remember where Mel stayed - though that seems a bit odd. We did celebrate though with the family and the wine was flowing freely - they waved us goodbye in the morning after they gave us breakfast.
Everything is OK now, and after travelling through Buxton and doing some more shopping in the Co-Op, and visiting a local pub with no alarm or complaints, the trio are now heading towards the Pennine Way and Northwards. I'm happy also to say that the Police in Buxton were very co-operative and helpful during the Ramblers visit, even going so far as to ask local people if they were offended at the presence of naked people... which they were not. This was highly refreshing and obviously a much better way to handle the situation (from a police point of view).
The walkers are currently ... near the beginning of the Pennine Way. Better weather now. Went shopping in Castleton yesterday and again had a very good reception. Some pubs were visited as well with only one protest and subsequent dialogue about the issues of nakedness. The landlord of the pub then asked them to leave as it is "a family establishment". Apparently, after this minor incident lots of the local police descended on the pub to investigate... but the ramblers had moved on.
What happened was, Mel was sat out at the back in the beer garden waiting for me to get food. A woman called her a slut or some such name and started laying into her verbally - up to that point there hadn't been a problem. The landlord took the expedient decision to ask us to leave rather than the woman who was acting unreasonably - so we left. One day it will be the other way around ... until then ...
The walkers are having a "drying off day" as lots of things got damp and soaking, including the telephones. It's probably a good idea in many ways to take stock of the situation as well and catch up with things and prepare for the next leg of the journey.
The main event of the day has been a trip on a packed commuter train accompanied by the BBC camera crew on their way back to pick up their rucksacks. This of course made it very interesting... and again no real objections, just lots of interest and curiosity from the public and train staff. The camera team are not with them all the time but just in different locations along the way. They are around the Edale area at the moment in the hills of the Peak District. Good weather tomorrow so lots more walking.
At 14:00: Here we go again! The latest we know is that Steve, Jeff and Mel have all been arrested again in a place called Gargrave in North Yorkshire and are currently being held in Skipton police station. After doing a bit of shopping we were proceeding out of town looking for the footpath again when the police pulled up and started asking questions. From what I could tell from a distance there was little discussion about what was going to happen, i.e. they weren't even offered the option of getting dressed and being left alone (not that they would have done). Something was said to the effect "we can't allow you to be nude on the public highway", then they were arrested and bundled off to Skipton police station in two separate vehicles.
The TV crew filmed it all happening but there was little chance to say goodbye. I was hoping they'd be in and out pretty quickly with a caution or something, but no. Someone has asked to see a solicitor. The police say no decision will be taken until after 20:00 and are not allowing visits (for "staffing reasons" I was told).
Mel is currently out of police custody along with Jeff but Steve, having refused to put his clothes back on, is still being held. It looks like he might be released shortly after a court date has been set.
At 19:55: Steve has been released now and is having dinner with Mel and Jeff by a river in Gargrave after being dropped off by the local police in a very 'out the back door' manner. Steve got charged with the minor offence of section 5 of the Public Order Act. They now intend to carry on as usual after a good night's sleep. I think the whole episode was the result of one complaint from one women in the town centre of Gargrave so pretty lightweight stuff but seemingly serious enough to get arrested by. Anyway, the walk continues.
Steve and Mel have been arrested on their way to Edinburgh.
At his trial on Friday 9th September, Steve was jailed for two weeks after being found guilty of a breach of the peace while walking along the A701 towards Edinburgh on 1st September. He was convicted of exposing himself, causing fear and alarm and distracting drivers. Steve appeared naked in court and argued that walking naked in public did not constitute a breach of the peace. He said he would continue with his walk when he was released from prison.
The only complainant was a 21-year-old postman who said he felt "pretty alarmed" and "pretty shocked" at the sight of Steve and Mel. In fact, he felt so alarmed that he had to drive past them again for a second look. Despite the flimsy evidence, the sheriff was unsympathetic to Steve's arguments and told him: "I have no doubt in my mind that walking naked through a Scottish town and along a busy road is not something which the Scottish public should be expected to deal with." He said people were likely to be "upset, alarmed or offended" by his behaviour. These comments show a deplorable prejudice against public nudity, and a lack of understanding of the law relating to breach of the peace. But that is not altogether unexpected.
Although Steve received a 2-week sentence, the prison says he will be released on Thursday 15 September, because the time he spent in custody awaiting trial is taken into account.
Released and re-arrested.
I was released on Friday 16th Sept at Edinburgh Sheriff's Court after being arrested the day before outside the prison on my 'release'. As the big metal gates were rolled back for me to go at 07:00 in the morning to avoid the press, there were four policeman waiting for me outside, telling me to get dressed or they would do me for BOP (Breach of the Peace), even though there wasn't anyone actually complaining. I was taken away after refusing and next day appeared at court and this time agreeing to put on clothes, it was either that or go inside again and I wanted to get out to see Melanie. We are continuing the walk. We're at a hostel in Edinburgh near the castle and will resume at tenish this morning after a couple of days off. We are both fine and still determined to finish regardless of how long it will take or how the weather turns.
Steve has explained that, when he was rearrested and taken to court on Friday, he was required to keep his genitals covered as a condition of his bail. He agreed to this in order to get out of custody and be reunited with Mel. Of course, there is a real risk that when he and Mel resume their walk naked, Steve will be arrested for breaching the conditions of his bail. The police can make such an arrest without anyone having complained, unlike a BOP arrest.
Just short of Perth. Nothing much to report - heading for Pitlochry. Apparently last night police came down the track to the woods we stayed in just after we arrived, so a local said. Close one!
Steve and Mel have made it safely through Inverness, though not without a worrying moment. Starting the day in poor weather at Tomatin, 11 miles to the south-east, they reached Inverness in the afternoon, as the weather improved and the sun broke through. They aimed to go straight through the centre of town, but just below Inverness Castle, which houses the courtroom where Steve made several appearances during his last walk, they were intercepted by a police car and police van. Although they weren't actually arrested, they were invited into the back of the van while the coppers rang HQ for instructions. They were then released and told that there had been "no substantial complaint" against them. One police officer wished them the best of luck as they went on their way.
We then walked through the streets of the town centre without incident. On our way to the bridge we were invited into a pub by locals for a quick half but I wanted to get going so we didn't stay long. We crossed the suspension bridge and slept out on a rock ledge that over-looked the bridge and the city of Inverness. Next day a photographer caught up with us and wanted a photograph. We obliged by stepping into a field out of view of the road (and police). But no sooner than he'd finished the local police turned up.
It saddens me to report that Steve and Mel have once again been arrested, this time on the A9 near Dingwall and the Cromarty bridge - the site of problems last time.
There's little detail at present as I got a call from Chris asking me to post this after he'd received a call from Dingwall police station - Steve had asked that police inform Chris of their arrest. No doubt further information will be forthcoming from the press or once they have been released.
This arrest is especially disappointing after the encouraging encounter with police yesterday - no complaint, no arrest - and their expectation to finish within a week or so, subject to the weather. Their situation is much as on the first walk where it was reported police had little option but to act on complaints, but kept hoping Steve would manage to leave their patch without someone else making a nuisance of themselves by complaining!
Following news of Steve and Melanie's arrest yesterday, the Dingwall Procurator Fiscal has confirmed that Steve will be appearing at Tain Sheriff Court sometime today, charged with breach of the peace and breach of bail conditions. The latter charge arises from his last court appearance in Edinburgh, when he agreed to bail conditions that required him to remain covered. He did this in order to get out of custody and be reunited with Melanie. However, the breach of bail charge means that he will almost certainly be remanded in custody this time, pending trial. It is not known at the moment whether Mel is also appearing in court today.
Steve and Melanie both appeared in Tain Sheriff Court this afternoon. Steve refused to dress, as usual, so the hearing took place in a separate room away from the main court room. Both of them accepted the assistance of a duty solicitor this time, and both pleaded not guilty to the charge of breach of the peace. Steve wouldn't agree to keep his genitals covered as a condition of bail, so he has been remanded in custody until an intermediate hearing of his case on 13 October, and unless somrehing changes, is likely to stay in custody until his trial date, which has been set for 21 October, in Dingwall Sheriff Court. Mel's trial will be on the same date, but she has been released because she agreed to accept the bail conditions.
At Dingwall Sheriff Court today, after a fairly lengthy trial, Steve and Mel were both found not guilty of the charge of breach of the peace that was brought against them after a motorist who saw them on the Cromarty Bridge on 3rd October complained to the police.
However, Steve was sentenced to two months imprisonment for a breach of bail conditions, which had been imposed on 16th September, after he was arrested in Edinburgh on his release from Edinburgh Prison. He will not have to serve the full two months as from now, since he has already spent some time in custody, but it is not clear when he might be released or where he will serve his sentence. According to Mel, he might have to serve as little as a week.
Mel is returning to Edinburgh, where Steve's solicitor will try to get the outstanding case against him heard fairly quickly so that Steve can be released as soon as possible and be free to resume his walk. Mel has no outstanding charges against her and is entirely free.
The local press report of the Dingwall trial doesn't really make it clear why Steve and Mel were acquitted of breach of the peace. But, according to Mel, it seems that there was no evidence that anyone had been alarmed by seeing them. The main witnesses were a young couple who had been driving past with their children aged 6 and 3. The elder boy had seen Steve and Mel, and the mother was worried that he might become fixated by willies and breasts. The written police statement said witnesses had been alarmed, but in court the police failed to substantiate this claim.
Legal precedent in Scotland says that, if there is no evidence of actual alarm, the conduct must be "flagrant" if conviction is to be justified. There was some lengthy legal discussion about the meaning of "flagrant", but eventually the Sheriff seems to have decided that Steve and Mel's conduct didn't meet this test, and he therefore found them both not guilty.
However, Steve admitted breaching his bail conditions, so the Sheriff was able to sentence him for that. The sentence was long enough to ensure that Steve spent a bit more time in jail. Steve refused, as usual, to dress for the trial, so the case was heard in his absence, with Steve represented by a solicitor appointed by the court. It is thought that Steve is likely to be released at the end of this week, or early next week. News of his release date will be posted here when known. In the meantime, he is being held at Saughton Prison in Edinburgh.
STEVE IS BACK IN JAIL, BADLY TREATED.
I have just this morning heard from Melanie in a brief phone conversation before she returns to Bournemouth that Steve was let out of HMP Edinburgh at 07:30 on Thursday. Outside the prison gates, waiting for Steve, were, she says, about a dozen policemen with vans and cars, they surrounded Steve on his appearing, re-arrested him immediately, and she says that he is detained for ten days.
He is scheduled to appear in court again on 14 November (when Melanie expects to be there once more) to be charged yet again with Breach of the Peace and also with breaking bail conditions. She says that while naked, he is being denied showers, exercise and access to a solicitor.
He has been allowed only the one 20p phone call to tell her about his condition. She is certain that these conditions contravene basic human rights, and that they are brutal enough to bring to the attention of Amnesty International. And, I would suggest, to the Prison Governor and to the Scottish press. I hope to report tomorrow any such contact with external guardians of justice, and hope also that others may add their voices independently.
STEVE SENT DOWN FOR CONTEMPT OF COURT
According to Radio 4 Steve has been sentenced to three months for contempt of court by not wearing clothes. The item also stated that he had been arrested frequently throughout his walk [which, of course, is not true].
In a letter just received but written over the last ten days, Steve tells us:
Steve is still in Saughton Prison, Edinburgh and is looking forward to a Christmas in prison. He has just been put back in solitary confinement due to a naked protest inside the prison when he scaled a CCTV pole with a banner around his neck saying "No shame - I am human" after he [was ordered | chose] to wear prison-issue jogging pants and top. Mel is back in Bournemouth awaiting Steve's release and receiving letters frequently from him.
BBC One Life programme, screened Thursday 8th December 2005 featured Steve and Mel from the outset of the walk.
Today Steve is scheduled to attend court again, this time, he says, to face no less than five charges: two Breach of the Peace; one breaking bail conditions, two Contempt of Court. He simply doesn't know how this will pan out, and he is not intending to dress for the occasion.
Steve has been freed and is flying back to Hampshire today. He was released naked this morning for reasons yet to be clarified.
I'm back in Bournemouth at the moment, having flown back on Monday. Melanie and I will be flying on the 25th Jan to Edinburgh to return to the place we were originally arrested several months previous to finish the walk. I was released on Monday after the two outstanding BOP charges were dropped and I got admonished for the breaking of the bail condition, even though I wasn't in court, but below in cells oblivious as to what was going on. Even as I write the above sentence the absurdity of the whole spectacle shouts out at me: why should I be admonished for disregarding an insane bail condition? Is it just me that sees this or has everyone become so brainwashed into following authorities, of whatever variety, that their sense of what's right has become muffled beyond perception?
Drove back to Scotland and parked in a village (Evanton) near the place of last arrest. Then we walked and camped the night right next to the previous "crime scene". In the morning, heavily laden with supplies, we set off with about 150 miles still left to do. First though there was a short tricky bit of about 500m to negotiate along the verge of the busy A9 before we could turn left and take the less busy B road running parallel with it. That done, we thought we'd tackled the most dangerous part (from the point of view of being apprehended by police) and could relax and enjoy the rest of the day's walking unmolested. But if this journey has taught me anything it has taught me things don't always go to plan and no sooner had we reached the quieter road than a police car pulled up in front of us and we were arrested once again. This time however we were only kept in calls overnight as next day we were released at court after the case against was dropped. Apparently, a minister of come church had seen us in his car as we had been walking along the A9 and had complained to police saying he didn't think such things should be seen on a Sunday in Scotland, or something to that effect.
The walk was resumed on Sunday 12 February 2006
If we dared to imagine that that was going to be the end of any police interference then a few miles later on the Dornoch Bridge such hopes were shattered. A police van just happened to be passing as we were crossing and the lone police driver decided to stop and arrest us. Again, he acted as he obviously felt he was expected to - either according to his own opinion of what was acceptable or appropriate or how he thought the public perceived it. He certainly didn't apply any of his own mental powers to the situation and ask, "Is there something here that would cause alarm to a sane person?" Because if he had done, his mind would have come up with a blank and he would have left us alone.
As it turned out, we were, again, only kept in cells overnight and released next morning without charge, although for some reason they had felt the need during the night to transport us up to Wick police station, which was a fair distance further north and we had to take the bus back to the bridge. Incidentally, I was released naked from the police station, but elected to get dressed outside to catch the bus. The policeman on duty, however, had warned me as I was leaving, that if someone complained that I risked being arrested again, which begs the question: are the police obligated to act unthinkingly just because someone complains, regardless of whether the complaint has any rational basis? Or are they obligated to uphold a standard of impartiality, which necessitates a continued level of objective scrutiny? And if it is the latter, which I contend it cannot reasonably be any other way, then I presume I was being released naked as it was deemed that simply being naked in public would not cause alarm to a reasonable person - which proves my point. So why had I been warned?
Maybe the policeman had taken the bold risk of assessing the situation himself and had come to an independent decision as many policemen had done on numerous occasions on our journey. But perhaps on "second thoughts" he feared a backlash of public opinion and he felt the need to warn me that under such pressure the goalposts would move (he wouldn't be able to stay committed to what he thought was true / right). I'll never know. But certainly, it takes a person of strong character to stick to what he or she thinks is right when they are in the public sphere and take an unorthodox and a possibly controversial stance. And that is where the problem lies. To be impartial you must stand back from your own personal concerns to see and do the right thing in the largest sense of that term. Fear (fear for yourself, which is often disguised as concern for others) hampers that ability. Fear is also - along with ignorance - what lays at the root of prejudice.
From then on the rest of the walk was uneventful in terms of any unscheduled rides in police vehicles - not that I was complaining. Again the Scottish people were generous in their hospitality - we were invited into, and stayed in, several homes and even put up in a motel en route, and people regularly offered us food and drink wherever we came into contact with them. With only the weather, the terrain and the distance to overcome we reached John o'Groats in five days. The walk was over but the work to raise the awareness of the issues the walk was about, i.e. the freedom of expression, was not. It had only just begun.
Naked rambler Stephen Gough has completed his second trek from Lands End to John O'Groats. Mr Gough and his partner Melanie Roberts, 34, from Bournemouth, reached the north coast of Caithness on Monday. The ex-marine, who began his 874-mile trek in June, has been arrested and jailed on several occasions. Mr Gough, from Eastleigh in Hampshire, said he wanted to challenge public attitudes to nudity. He celebrated his success by putting his clothes on.