Stephen Gough, the Naked Rambler, managed to get his by now usual Christmas in jail thanks to a 12-month sentence for breach of the peace handed down in Glasgow Sheriff Court on 17 December 2008.
The conviction was the result of Gough’s conduct after he had been cleared in the same court on 13 November on another charge of breach of the peace (see further below). Gough had then insisted on leaving the courtroom and walking through the building in a state of undress. This led to his arrest there and then and the further court appearance on 17 December.
The November case, heard before Sheriff Margaret Gimblett (for whom see here and here), had been about an unclad departure from what is now Gough’s main residence at Barlinnie Prison at the conclusion of his last sentence. Apparently the police had arrested the nude pedestrian a matter of yards outside the prison gates. Sheriff Gimblett held there was no evidence that any member of the public had had the chance to be put in a state of fear and alarm by Gough’s nakedness and found there was accordingly no case to answer on the breach of the peace charge.
The continuation of the seemingly pointless saga of momentary public nudity, arrest, trial and imprisonment has led to some debate about how best to deal with the situation. Scots Law News is of the view that the time has come for closure, and wonders whether an ASBO or lawburrows or fines might not have more useful effects than prison. Anyway, there may be issues about Gough’s physical health: the Scottish Sun reported on 14 October that he had been made to wear socks in prison on medical advice, since his feet must be kept warm to deal with a circulation problem. The Sun speculated lewdly about the possibility of effects on other parts of Gough’s anatomy. Whatever, keeping Gough warm inside for what will be the fifth of the last six Christmases does not seem to be the way to dissuade him from his chosen path. Indeed, he may be looking to notch up as many convictions as the Lochee shoplifter reported on Scots Law News in November, and start getting judicial sentencing discounts.