Naturists fears over sex offenders bill

THOUSANDS of naturists risk being criminalised by new proposals to make exposing the genitals an offence, a naturists' leader from north Suffolk told MPs.

THOUSANDS of naturists risk being criminalised by new proposals to make exposing the genitals an offence, a naturists' leader from north Suffolk told MPs.

Mick Ayers, chairman of the Central Council of British Naturism, said parts of the Government's Sexual Offences Bill designed to catch flashers and streakers could lead to innocent naturists being targeted.

"We feel exposure of the person in our way is a natural way of life," he told the Home Affairs Select Committee.

"There is a need to differentiate between a very moral and proper way of life which is a family activity and those who do such things for sexual gratification."


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The Bill should be altered to state explicitly that only people exposing themselves for sexual purposes commit an offence, which will carry up to two years' imprisonment, he said.

Mr Ayers, 56, from Lowestoft, wore a dark suit, light blue shirt and navy tie bearing British Naturism's logo,

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He added: "People who expose themselves for sexual gratification tend to be obvious - and if you are a male person it's very obvious in certain cases.

"We therefore believe that some amendments should be made to this clause (of the Bill) to show that naturism is not the target. We prefer not to be caught in friendly fire, as it were."

He added: "If you are on a naturist beach it should be a defence that a reasonable person should expect to see naked people."

The 20,000 members of his organisation carry a "naturists' passport" which can be removed if they are thought to have joined the group with ulterior motives, he said.

"If they believe naturism offers them something of a sexual activity and contact, they are very quickly disillusioned and leave," he said.

Mr Ayers sat alongside other experts giving evidence to the Commons committee, including chairman of the Criminal Bar Association Peter Rook QC, chairman of the Police Federation Jan Berry and Cathy Halloran of the Rape Crisis Federation.

After the session Mr Ayers displayed his own naturists' passport, which bears a head and shoulders photograph revealing his unclothed shoulders.

"I'm not wearing clothes there because, obviously, it's a naturists' passport,' he told reporters, adding that an estimated 2.5 million people in the UK practise naturism.

The Bill proposes tightening the law on exposure although such activity can currently be dealt with under existing public order and decency laws.

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