Stephen Gough

Yes, I know, the law is the law:

The former Royal Marine, who became notorious for his naked hike from Land\’s End to John O\’Groats in 2003, has spent much of the past seven years in prison for repeatedly appearing nude in public.

He was yesterday found guilty of breaching the peace when he walked naked from Perth prison in December after finishing a 12 month sentence for the same offence. Mr Gough was warned he will continue to be jailed every time he steps out of prison without any clothes on.


Mr Gough said he accepted he could \”potentially\” remain in jail forever and added: \”This is about individual freedom.\”

The father of two has spent most of the past seven years in Scottish jails after stripping off on a flight to Edinburgh. Since then he has declined to wear prison uniform or to appear clothed in court, resulting in further custodial sentences for contempt.

But there is something admirable about such sheer bloody mindedness.

Seriously, walking out naked into a Scottish winter? To prove a point?

Yes, as above, I\’m well aware that the law is the law but my personal opinion would be that he\’s fought the law and he\’s won. The stress and strain on society of jailing a man for life because he insists on walking around in the nuddy is, to my mind, greater than the stress and strain on society of a man walking around in the nuddy.

Just accept that we\’ve a nutter among us and let him out.

After all, there aren\’t that many maiden aunts left who would be shocked now, are there?

22 thoughts on “Stephen Gough”

  1. The whole notion of “breach of the peace”, along with “public order offences” (is it Section 4?) and “anti-social behaviour” seems to be simply a way for the police to nick someone who hasn’t committed a real offence but has done something that the copper doesn’t like.

    You can see it on those “police on camera” TV shows; 2 or 3 plods are nicking someone, Joe comes along and photographs it, and suddenly Joe’s nicked as well.

    It may have been OK when we could trust the average copper, but those days are long gone.

  2. The law here is a (naked) ass.

    Why are we expending resources on locking up some loon, when murderers and paedophiles go free every day? It’s hard not to come to the conclusion that it’s because he is cocking a snook at the law, and that will not be tolerated…

    “…he walked naked from Perth prison in December…”

    In December? He can’t have had much to ‘offend public decency’ with, can he?!

  3. As to naked in Scotland in winter…

    We are talking a former marine here.

    I’m not actually sure if in England and Wales public nudity is actually a criminal offense per-se. Scotland might be different but…

    Yes, and what dearieme said.

  4. Tim,

    Stephen Gough, about whom I have written many times, is a barking mad twat who does not need to be freed. He does not need to be celebrated. He needs to be sectioned. For the past few years, his life has consisted of a course of penally penile wilful obtuseness; the only person ever to have wilfully bedblocked the Scottish Prison Service.

    For all those who consider him a hero, consider this. I hope you’d all agree that he is obviously an obsessive. Now, would you like him living next door to you when he takes a dislike to the height of your hedge? No, you know that you wouldn’t, because deep down you know that he’s the sort of crackpot who’d eventually blast you to death with a sawn-off shotgun in front of your wife and kids if he didn’t get his own way, and then tell the cops something like, ‘sorry, but it needed doing’.

    All that he needs to do to end this, all he has ever had to do, is to put on a pair of underpants. That’s all. It’s not exactly the most high and severe course of rehabilitation that’s ever been required of a convict – is it? Come on, you know it’s not. Good grief, if he did take his life out of his hands for a moment he’d probably have a glittering future as an underwear model – ‘Cacques de Paris, as worn by The Naked Rambler’.

    Gough’s mistake, and it was his mistake, was to think that everyone he encountered on his Exhibionists’ Grand Tour would share his own cheery attitude to what the law still considers to be public indecency. Then he met Tayside Police. One can moan as much as one likes about Scottish cops – I’ve probably had more dealings with them than anyone else here, so the queue starts at my shoulder. But, for better or worse, the Perth police have proved that they’re as stubborn as he is; and he can’t stand it, because his self-image is so predicated by his own, er, cod notions of liberty that with him it’s his way or no way at all.

    His sociopathic self-centredness has absolutely no regard for the amount of money his continued incarcerations cost everyone else. Every night he spends inside, a serious criminal stays out of jail because of prison overcrowding. Every time he eats a prison meal, he incurs a money cost that could have been spent on a pensioner in need of a crisis loan. The guy is a crazy who will not conform. He is not a prisoner of conscience, but the slave of his own ego; and like much else to do with Gough, it’s not much to look at.

  5. Martin

    Actually, far from being the deranged loon described in your caricature, I think Stephen is probably the sanest of us all. He’s realised the total stupidity of the legal position that the courts have taken and is making them look stupid – which I suspect is why they are persisting. After all, we can’t have the little people putting one over on the “Great and the Good” can we?

    Other than being naked, and correct me if I’m wrong but we’ve all got a full quota of similar body parts under our clothes, he appears to have committed no other offence. He’s not attacked or burgled, he’s not raped or killed, he’s not stolen or threatened. He’s walked the length of the country naked (goodness knows why, but that’s up to him) and yet he’s more dangerous than the thugs and slimeballs that get off with 200 hours of community idleness and hanging around after having done something REALLY wrong.

    This case should be continually brought to the attention of the media until the anti-libertarian Plod and idiotic judge are shamed into an intelligent decision.

  6. I agree he seems harmless and has been in jail far too long already. The possibility that he might spend his life in jail is appalling. But by what mechanism should the law make an exception in his case?

    Tim adds: “But by what mechanism should the law make an exception in his case?”

    Jury nullification?

  7. How do we prevent the next private and intimate thing he may decide to do in the public domain? There is a reason you can take a walk without stepping lightly around piles of human excrement.

    Either we have standards of behaviour in the public domain, or we don’t, and anyone can do anything, right there in the street in front of your house. And leave it there. So now it’s your problem. You clean it up.

    The fact of his serial imprisonment, is surely the outcome of his serial offending. Every time they let him out, he waves his whistle at someone else.

    No doubt he would frame his treatment in terms of censorship and oppression of his otherwise free willy. I wouldn’t. This bloke is no libertarian. He is an oppressor. He can not be satisfied unless he is sticking his knob in your face. Just by being there, he can stop you going there. Now, there’s a whole load of places you can’t go to, because he might be there. He rules.

    There is no law against him getting an abode, and wandering around naked, jerking off, or doing his business in front of anyone who wants to watch, in his own home. He could even advertise on the web. Hell, he could put the whole performance up on the web.

    There is a public domain, and he should not be allowed into it. Because that domain has to work. It is where we interact. It is the place of mutual support, where we are all entitled to be confident and safe from intimidation.

  8. JohnRS,

    I was uncharitable to Mr. Gough and mouthed off in consequence, a very, very bad habit of mine; I apologise for any offence caused.

    However, I can’t really agree with you. If one’s memory of reports of his past appearances is correct, one of the Perth sheriffs has already tried to tell him that this course of conduct amounts to the waste of his life. He’s not a wee boy; he’s in his ’50’s. Now, OK, it’s his life to do what he wants with, etc., etc.,; but there is nothing heroic about what he is doing. He could stop this any time he wants, just by doing something that the rest of us do without thinking. He doesn’t seem to want to.

    The cops are probably sick and tired of arresting him, and the local bench are very probably sick and tired of jailing him. However, they feel that they have to keep doing that because law and order must be seen to exist if they are to exist at all. There’s apparently now a very tedious and expensive cabaret involved in this – Steve Gough strips off at the gates of Friarton prison, clearly conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace; and he refuses to wear clothes in court, a contempt of court if there ever was one. He gets sent down. They’re never going to behave any differently. If he dies in jail, then it’s because he wants to. He’s not a political prisoner, but an unfortunate and probably ill man whose illness expresses itself in a repetitive course of clearly criminal conduct.

  9. I don’t think the man must necessairily be ill. From what little I have read I have no reason to suspect him of shooting other people for real or imagined wrongdoing. You are equating a mindset unlike the one the law encodes with “necessairily wrong”, where the other respondents appear to disagree with you on that point. I think that his actions count as art, for he makes us think.

    Your problem is that his deviation of what the law encodes as norm is not the attack on you that you perceive it to be. He isn’t attacking anyone, he just isn’t conforming. And through that he very clearly shows that the law is not as forgiving as most people assume in warm and fuzzy ignorance (“it won’t happen to me”, “they surely won’t go that far”, etc.) in fact it has become downright repressive. You very literally can’t even walk around naked without ending up in jail.

    And in that, I agree that it is the law that is wrong. But then I like governments that have the backbone to not legislate what doesn’t need legislating. Very few indeed can work up that courage, because most are made up of moralists and self-appointed world improvers.

    What the judicial system and the police think of it is of no import in this case. Their only option is to do what the law tells them to. Which is why we need laws that are much more tightly constrained (not constrainING, constrainED) than we have.

  10. When the officials get round to releasing him again, they could drive him to the English border – to get rid of him surely? I would have thought the longer that this silly nonsense goes on with both sides seemingly locked and not budging the more it costs everybody.

    Stephen Gough has made his point and maybe in time the Scots will relax a bit about one individual’s right to public nudity – or not. Perhaps in agreeing to be released at the border, Mr Gough should agree to the Scot’s requirements that he does not venture forth nude in the country again as it is evidently not desired, – or risk a very lengthy sentence. What is really offensive about this costly absurd case is the intransigence and lack of resolution- by both sides.

    And not wearing clothes outside in December is just stupid.

  11. Cellar,

    I completely agree that he refuses to conform. The mores, practices, customs, laws, whatever that he refuses to conform with are the most basic of all involved in any form of group living other than the avoidance of cannibalism. Want to walk around in the buff all day long? Fine, but do it amongst people of a similar mindset. Who is imposing on whom here? Steve Gough wants to impose his views on public nudity on everyone who sees him regardless of whether they are offended by it or not. As I’ve said above, the source of his current problem is that he’s encountered people as stubborn as he is, and his ego does not allow him to back down.

    The law of Scotland demands that middle aged men not walk the streets with their choppers hanging out. This is not a high and severe standard. It cannot be deemed to be repressive in any way. And while it might be true that governments are composed of moralists and self-appointed improvers, er, what’s the alternative? Personal dictatorships for life? Well, that’s how Steve Gough seems to think, and look where it’s got him.


    I would dearly love for Steve Gough to be driven from the gates of Perth prison all the way back to Eastleigh. However, one could easily predict that he’d be back in Scotland within days, and everyone’s back at square one. He seems to be that type of guy. The intransigence of both sides is deeply unappealing, I agree. However, on one side is the law we all invoke, on the other is a guy who seems prepared to spend his life in custody because he won’t wear underpants. Where does justice reside here? Quite clearly on the side of the law, I would suggest.

    Would anyone actually want this man living next to them?

  12. Martin: ” Where does justice reside here? Quite clearly on the side of the law, I would suggest. ”

    But not in England apparently. Where he was, somewhat reluctantly, allowed by the authorities to do his rambling. Did society collapse? Was anyone corrupted? Have there been a thousand imitators?

  13. Bob,

    Couple of points –

    If the English authorities refuse to enforce English law, that their problem. The Scottish authorities cannot be faulted for enforcing Scottish law.

    It’s doubtful whether the sight of a mad, middle-aged exhibitionist striding purposefully across England in the buff caused society to collapse (and I should explain that my own experience of watching middle aged exhibitionists doing their thang has been solely confined to two weeks spent at close quarters to the Dutch underclass while on holiday on Tenerife, a holiday destination almost designed to remind visitors that at 5 am, everywhere in the world looks like Coatbridge); and the recent inclement weather will certainly have discouraged imitators.

    However, we’ll never really know whether anyone was corrupted. What Gough has always been about has been about imposing himself and his views on other people. If it hadn’t been nudity, it would have been something else. But it was nudity, and he got his name, his views, and a photo of his bum in the newspapers. And he’s also managed to get himself into jail. That’s all part of the story – but we’ll never really know what impact his views have had.

    I await the movie of his life, presumably starring Eric Bana, with interest…

  14. Announces GOUGH NUDE!

    The International Campaign to Free The Naked Rambler is proud to announce our international online campaign GOUGH NUDE! to urge Scottish authorities to grant Stephen Gough, aka “the Naked Rambler” his freedom and to stop harrassing him with meaningless prosecutions.

    Stephen Gough, also known as The Naked Rambler, has been walking across Scotland and parts of the UK, in the nude for the better part of the last 7 years – the better part, that is, when he is not in jail. Scottish authorities have taken to sentencing him to prison for the offense of ‘breaching the peace’ which they have conveniently labelled his public act of civil disobedience. Last month, Gough, a former Royal Marine, was taken back into custody seconds after being released from the Perth Prison on December 17th for his refusal to get dressed. Sheriff Lindsay Foulis indicated that Gough would be arrested “again and again and again” if he failed to bend to the will of the law – which could result in Gough being perpetually imprisoned for a lifetime.

    To date, the cost of prosecuting and imprisoning the Naked Rambler has exceeded £200,000 (approximately $325,000). Gough, who has compared himself to black civil rights activist Rosa Parks said: “Essentially this is about individual freedom and people’s tolerance to other people being different. I understand a lot of people will disagree and have strong feelings about it.” With regard to the possibility of extended periods of incarceration, Gough added: “People who have brought great change often have to go to prison first. People often have to go to prison for many years before other’s see the light.”

    A representative of made the following statement in support of the campaign. “Several milliion people enjoy the benefits of nude recreation and a nudist lifestyle across the world and every one of them is in peril of losing the freedom to do so at the hands of members of society who grievously over-react to simple, non-sexual, social nudity. The worst manifestation of this are laws that senselessly restrict one’s ability to enjoy a natural and nude state without harassment. The idea of someone facing lifetime imprisonment for simply appearing nude in public strikes us as cruel and unusual in the extreme. Mr. Gough is taking a principled and personal stand to do something about that. In our opinion, anyone who values such freedom should be ready to stand right beside him. We believe this campaign offers just such an opportunity and we are confident it will attract many supporters to Mr. Gough’s side.”

    NudistStop’s campaign offers supporters the opportunity to sign a petition that reads: “We the undersigned hereby urge all relevant officials in Scotland to release Stephen Gough from custody, to end his perpetual harrassment by law enforcement agencies and the courts and to seriously reconsider their draconian measures for addressing simple, non-sexual public nudity.”

    Individuals wishing to participate in the campaign can do so at is the one stop destination for individuals and families interested in nudist, naturist and “clothing optional” lifestyles. NudistStop provides news, information, discussion forums, products and services of interest to the nudist/naturist community worldwide.

  15. “With regard to the possibility of extended periods of incarceration, Gough added: “People who have brought great change often have to go to prison first. People often have to go to prison for many years before other’s see the light.”

    The light isn’t all that Gough wants people to see.

  16. Martin –
    What comes to mind when reading your defence of the status quo is that while we are, all of us, in the gutter, some of us are looking at the stars.
    The only difference I see between you and Stephen Gough in regard to the possession of an ego is that you are content to dismiss the possibility of freeing yourself from yours by attempting to relegate him to an even deeper gutter.
    In my opinion, whatever his personal flaws may be (and who is free from flaws?), Mr Gough is an extremely morally courageous man. The challenge which his nakedness presents to both himself and his persecutors is this: that it is easy for them to hide their small-mindedness behind a veil of respectable conformity. Mr Gough invites the emperor to look in the mirror and to see that his fine suit of spun gold is in fact entirely a figment of his (and our) imagination. The emperor looks and, alas, sees nothing amiss.
    “Yes,” (it seems to me is the burden of your apology for this) “But these are the only clothes we have. What would become of civilized behaviour were we to discard them?” Well, why not have a look in that mirror yourself and see how you measure up? Would the world be such a bad place if we managed to shed a few of the double standards and invidious caricatures with which we trammel ourselves as though it were the most natural thing in the world? (Or should that be gutter?)

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