Our thanks to Bernard Boase for drawing our attention to the Aberdeen Evening Express for 13 May 2008, which reports the clearing of Angus Plumb (56), who had been arrested in September 2007 after being found running through Irvine Place, Aberdeen at 3 a.m. in an unclad state. The charge against Mr Plumb was public indecency, but Sheriff Colin Harris held that for the offence to be made out a member of the public had to be offended. While the arresting policeman had given evidence that he had been offended, the learned sheriff discounted this on the basis that at the time he had done nothing to cover up Mr Plumb’s nakedness during the arrest process. Mr Tom Cruickshank for the defence, who should perhaps be brought to the attention of the Naked Rambler, clearly persuaded the court with his remarks as follows: “What is publicly indecent about being naked? We come into the world naked and we leave it naked. What’s indecent about it?” Scots Law News admires the rhetoric but wonders a bit about leaving the world naked as a general rule – it is surely contingent rather than as certain as our state on arrival.
Be that as it may, “public indecency” is of course the offence that was essentially created in Scots law by the significant decision of the High Court in Webster v Dominick 2003 SCCR 525, separating “lewd and libidinous conduct” from the previous “shameless indecency” (see Nos 243, 269 and 272). From the account of the law in the Criminal Law Reissue (paras 452-454) of the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia, it seems that offended witnesses of the indecency are indeed of the essence of the offence. The discussion notes that therefore naked performances in theatres, strip clubs and the like are not instances of the offence, because the audience is there by consent. This has a particular Aberdeen resonance bearing in mind the recent case of Stuart Kennedy, the stripogram from the city who started out his act dressed in police uniform, and was found not guilty of various offences not including public indecency or, for that matter, breach of the peace (see No 788). It was further reported in this connection that Grampian Police had re-arrested Mr Kennedy in the early hours of 18 May and charged him again, this time with breach of the peace. On this occasion he was wearing camouflage gear, a flak jacket and a beret, but it is not clear whether his mode of attire had anything to do with his arrest. Scots Law News awaits further developments with interest, and notes, as the Naked Rambler knows (we think) to his cost, that in breach of the peace the test of whether the lieges were or were not alarmed is an objective one, not dependent (even in liberal, fun-loving Aberdeen) upon there actually being folk alarmed at the time (see No 357).
Mr Boase further draws our readers’ attention to a clash between his own naturist ambitions and the police in, of all places, Dorset (see http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/bernard_boase/2007/11/why_the_dressing-down_officers.html).