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Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 17:02 GMT
Nudist 'not a public nuisance'
Vincent Bethell
Vincent Bethell spent five months in solitary confinement
A jury has unanimously cleared a veteran nudist campaigner of being a public nuisance.

Vincent Bethell, 28, of The Freedom to be Yourself campaign, said he hoped the verdict would send a message to the authorities that nudity in public was not offensive.


The jury trial is so important for justice

Vincent Bethell
As soon as he heard the verdict at Southwark Crown Court Mr Bethell - wearing nothing but a beard - shouted: "Being human is not a crime".

But Judge George Bathurst-Norman warned him: "I would not go away too much with that idea.

"It is simply not a public nuisance in these circumstances."

Mr Bethell, who has repeatedly been arrested for his nudity, has spent the last five months in solitary confinement at south London's Brixton Prison because of his refusal to wear clothes.

He left the court carrying a bag of clothes, shivering as he spoke to reporters outside in near-zero temperatures.

"This is a great decision, it is great progress," he said.

"On the other occasions I have been convicted by magistrates, but this is the first time I have been tried by members of the public. The jury trial is so important for justice."

He said he would continue his campaign and hoped the jury's verdict would send a "strong message" to the police and Crown Prosecution Service that nakedness in public was not a crime.

But prosecuting lawyer Orlando Gibbons, also speaking after the trial, said nudity in public would remain a crime until there was a change in the law.

Standing with Mr Bethell outside court was fellow nudist, Edward Pope, 52, of Oxford, wearing nothing but woolly gloves and socks.

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See also:

23 Jul 99 | UK
Different faces of nudism
16 May 00 | Wales
Wales has first nudist beach
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