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Court dresses down naked rambler

Gough
Gough was arrested after being spotted walking naked in woods.

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DINGWALL, Scotland -- A rambler who is attempting to walk the length of Britain naked has been admonished by a Scottish court.

Stephen Gough, who appeared in court Friday with a blue blanket wrapped around his waist, denied conducting himself in a disorderly manner and committing a breach of the peace.

But after a two-hour hearing, the court heard the offenses had been proven, and Sheriff MacFadyen warned him: "The more you appear in court, the more serious penalties you will have to face."

Gough was arrested after being spotted walking naked in woods in the Scottish Highlands.

The 44-year-old had planned to complete the 847-mile walk from Lands End -- the most southerly point in England -- to the northern tip in Scotland, John O'Groats, dressed only in hat, socks, boots and a rucksack to highlight his campaign for a change in nudity laws.

But his journey has been hampered by eight arrests, several nights in jail and an examination in a psychiatric hospital.

On the first day of his walk -- on June 16 -- he was arrested in St. Ives and charged with a breach of the peace. But magistrates threw out the case because he had not committed an offense. Further court appearances followed.

Gough, of Eastleigh, southern England, appeared at Dingwall Sheriff Court in Scotland on Friday.

Giving evidence, Kathleen MacDonald, 52, who lives near the wood where Gough was walking naked, told the court that, on the day in question, she had been in her house alone when her two dogs started barking outside.

"I went outside to see what they were barking at. One of the dogs had started running up the road and on the road there was a gentleman with no clothes, just a rucksack and white flag," she said.

She said she had "felt quite intimidated" by what she saw, and decided to phone the police.

"My concern was that there were a lot of people in the woods, such as people exercising and even young children. I felt that if I had been in the woods and I saw him I would have been more than intimidated, I would have been very very frightened."

Cross-examining Mrs MacDonald, Gough asked her: "What's your belief about public nakedness?"

She replied: "I've absolutely no problem with people choosing to be naked so long as they do not offend the general public. I feel that we live in a society that has laid down rules for us and my personal belief is that we should adhere to those rules."

MacDonald told Gough that had she seen him fully clothed she would probably not have noticed him at all.

Gough then took to the witness box, telling the court he was not intending to offend anybody but was aiming to prove to society that the naked human form was acceptable.

He began crying as he continued his evidence. "Occasionally people have expressed that I am doing harm to children. I do not feel that is the case," he said.

Gough disgreed with procurator fiscal Roderick Urquhart's view that people had a choice whether or not to view images in that context.

Summing up, Urquhart told the court that although Gough said he had not sought to impose his belief on others, his actions had done exactly that.

After the Sheriff found that the offences had been proven, the court heard that Gough had no significant savings.


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