LONDON – A man trying to walk the length of Britain naked to promote public nudity was convicted Wednesday of breaching the peace and sentenced to three months in jail.
Stephen Gough (search), 44, has endured repeated arrests since setting out in June to walk the 847 miles from Land's End in southwest England to John O'Groats in Scotland's far north.
He was most recently apprehended Nov. 29 after residents of Evanton, a village in the Scottish Highlands, complained about his walking through town wearing only boots, socks and a knapsack. He had been released from jail just hours earlier.
Gough, wearing only a scarlet prison blanket tied with a police belt at his trial in Dingwall Sheriff Court in the Highlands, argued that he had been exercising his right to free expression as guaranteed by the Human Rights Act (search).
"There is no law saying 'Thou shalt not go naked,"' Gough said. "All I am doing is dressing how I want to dress and believing what I want to believe. ... I am taking a stand and I hope that inspires others to do the same."
He said he had undertaken his hike to "celebrate myself as a human being" and show people the nude body is beautiful, not disgusting.
There is no law in Britain against public nudity. However, there are laws against indecent exposure -- which requires proof of intent to insult a woman -- or any behavior likely to cause "harassment, alarm or distress."
Evanton resident Robert Thow, who testified at Gough's trial, said he had reported the naked walker to police because he worried about what effect his appearance might have on women and children.
"I think there is a time and a place for it," he said. "I did not think Evanton was the place for it, or any other village."
He suggested that Gough could have walked around the town instead of through it.
Sheriff Edward Savage, who also convicted Gough for breaching the terms of his bail, chastised him while handing down the sentence.
"You seemed determined, Mr. Gough, to break the law," he said.
Gough, of Eastleigh in southern England, will get credit for the month he's already spent in jail.