News that a naked cyclist in Warrington had been reported to police has prompted a response from British Naturism, which points out that taking your clothes off in public is not necessarily a crime.
As we reported on our live blog yesterday evening, the man was spotted riding in the buff near Fiddlers Ferry Boat Yard and Penketh Mount on Sunday afternoon.
Police confirmed that they were investigating, but British Naturism has stressed that unless he intended to alarm or distress others, he was not committing a crime under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
Section 66 of the act, which deals with exposure, says that “A person commits an offence if (a) he intentionally exposes his genitals, and (b) he intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress.”
The important point here is that there must be intent – someone may well be caused alarm or distress at the sight of a naked body in public, but if the nude person did not have the intent to cause it, there is no offence.
Andrew Welch from British Naturism told the Warrington Guardian: "It's an important point and it frustrates us.
"I think that there is a presumption that a naked man must be up to something, when in fact the law is now incredibly clear.
"There is no action needed unless a crime is being committed. Naturism – taking your clothes off specifically because you want to sunbathe or feel the air on your skin – was named as an exclusion from the Sexual Offences Act.”
"A naturist just doing his or her normal thing is not committing any kind of crime.
"It doesn't have to be behind closed doors or in a designated area - anybody can take their clothes off and be a human being without committing a crime, unless they absolutely set out to offend someone."
He acknowledged that what the law says and what people – including police officers – assume it says can be very different, saying: "The law is clear, but the culture is not – people aren't used to nudity, and think that a naked person must be up to something a bit strange.
"Maybe they think that person is a bit deranged to take their clothes off, and with the weather in this country sometimes you can't blame them.
"If I looked out my window one morning and there was a naked person in the street outside then it would go through my mind too.
"What often happened in the past was that the police would be alerted, and a naked man in the street would be arrested or cautioned.
"But the change has come because we have been working with the police over the last few years to get them to pay attention to what the law actually says.
"Because of all that work, they are now training the police to work out whether a crime is being committed.
"The law has been the same for 15 years, but the way it has been applied had been bad – but it's now being done in the right way," he added.
Similarly, organisers of events in England and Wales falling under the umbrella of the World Naked Bike Ride – held annually in hundreds of towns and cities around the world – stress that public nudity is fine, unless alarm or distress to others is intended.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.