Stephen Gough, Eastleigh’s Naked Rambler, is facing a total of a decade behind bars after he was sentenced to a further two-and-a half years imprisonment today at Winchester Crown Court after breaking the terms of an ASBO.
The unusual trial, during which neither a defence counsel nor the defendant were present, caused members of the public sat in the gallery to pass a note to the judge expressing concerns.
Mr. Gough, former Royal Marine has already spent eight years of almost continuous imprisonment as a result of his refusal to wear clothes in public and appeared in the dock today unclothed.
Gough had been arrested outside the gates of Winchester prison on the city’s’ busy Romsey Rd on April 15 just minutes after his release on the completion of a 16 month sentence for breaking an ‘indefinite’ ASBO which stipulates that he cannot appear in public naked with his buttocks and genitals exposed.
PC Rich Moody told the court how he had been sent to the prison with a spare set of clothes to prevent Gough from breaching the terms of the ASBO again.
PC Moody said he saw Gough emerge from jail naked except for socks and boots and carrying two large plastic bags.
The PC said Gough was in full view of people waiting at a bus stop outside the county hospital but Gough refused to put on a tracksuit when offered and was then arrested.
Following his arrest he told police that he would not comply with the ASBO because he thought it was unreasonable, saying:
“I want to live a reasonable life, I want my integrity’.
Gough told officers he thought the ASBO was “gobbledygook” and that it “goes against my sense of what is right” adding :
“I am not a robot I am a human being.
“Just because someone says something, no matter how big he is , you just don’t follow it.”
Prior to selecting and swearing in the jury, Her Honour Judge J Miller had Gough brought before her to ask him if he would don some clothing but Gough, who had no defence council and was representing himself, refused to sit down when requested.
Gough told the judge that if he did so he would ‘incriminate himself’
“I am respectfully asking to stand. I want to be treated like a normal defendant.”
“A normal defendant will sit down if asked to do so” said the judge.
“You are currently in breach of the ASBO by appearing naked in public.”
Gough was warned that if he did not sit then the trial would proceed without him.
Despite repeated requests Gough reused to sit and was taken back down to the cells.
Prosecutor Simon Jones told the judge that he thought Gough had been given every opportunity to participate but would not co-operate.
Mr. Jones also said it was not a defence to say:
“I broke the (ASBO) order because I didn’t agree with it.”
The judge decided to give Gough “one more chance” and had him brought before her again.
Gough remained standing while the judge told him that unless he was clothed the trial would proceed without him, warning him that:
“I am not prepared to have you in court in front of a jury even if sat down.”
But Gough repeated that he would not wear clothes.
The judge told Gough that if he was not present in court and had no defence counsel she could ask the prosecution questions on his behalf.
Gough told the judge that he read the prosecution papers twice and that he had not disagreed with it.
Mr. Gough also said that his case was based on “my body and what defines a public place.”
Gough was taken down to cells again, a jury was selected and the prosecution commenced their case with neither a defence counsel nor the defendant present.
During the recess for lunch a trio of Gough’s supporters, who had been in the public gallery drafted a letter to the judge expressing their concerns in what where described as ‘exceptional circumstances.’
The supporters told Eastleigh News they were not naturists but well wishers concerned about Gough’s civil liberties.
The letter noted that the jury had not been told that public nudity was not in itself a criminal offence and referred to the CPS guidance on handling cases of Naturism.
Gough’s supporters also felt the jury should be told he had already spent 8 years in custody and that Gough refused to wear clothing out of ‘sincere and deeply held beliefs’ and not to cause alarm or distress.
The judge accepted the representation and a copy was provided for the prosecution.
Gough was also brought back from the cells and given a copy which he proceed to read with apparent difficulty holding it at arms length (while continuing to stand) as he said one of his eyes ‘had gone funny’ and that he did not have glasses.
After noting that he agreed with the contents Gough was once again taken down though he gestured his `approval to his supporters in the gallery with a thumbs up’ as he was led away.
The judge and prosecutor addressed each of the points raised for the benefit of Mr. Gough’s supporters in the public gallery wit neither Gough nor the jury present.
The Prosecutor said he not said anything to suggest public nudity was illegal as it was irrelevant – the action was to consider an alleged breach of an ASBO not its validity.
The judge said that mentioning Gough’s previous time in jail was not only irrelevant but could be prejudicial and although gouge may have ‘sincere and deeply held beliefs’ even is it was to compromise his integrity to wear clothes it is not a reasonable excuse in law.
The jury of six men and six women took under 15 minutes to reach a unanimous verdict of guilty.
Gough had turned down the opportunity to hear the verdict delivered but was returned to the dock for sentencing.
Judge Miller observed it was not the first ASBO Gough had broken and that he has committed a total of48 offences:
“We are going round in circles in an endless cycle of prison sentences” she observed.
Sentencing the Naked Rambler to two-and-a half years imprisonment plus a £120 victim surcharge.
The judge suggested that some sort of ‘closed community’ should be found for Gough other wise “he is going to continue committing offences till the end of his natural life.”
The judge told Gough that he would only have to serve half of the sentence and warned him:
“You are the author of your own destiny.”
As Gough left the dock for the final time he gave another thumbs up to the gallery.
Dismissing the jury the judge thanked them for their service in “a wholly exceptional case.”
Afterwards one of Gough’s supporters, lawyer Vincent Scheurer, described the verdict as “predictable” adding “the sentences are only going to go up.”