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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Sex law tweaked for naturists
German naturist in a field
Naturists had feared being targeted by a law meant for flashers

A proposed new sex crime law has been altered by ministers to reassure naturists who had feared it could lead to their arrest.

An amendment to the Sexual Offences Bill removed the word "reckless" from a clause tightening the law on indecent exposure.

The Home Office said the law would now apply only to those who "intentionally expose their genitals knowing or intending that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress".

Naturists had told ministers that the word "reckless" could hinder their "natural way of life".

The real target of the clause is flashers.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We believe this change will reassure naturists about practising their entirely legitimate lifestyle."

'Major victory'

The real target, she said, was "for example the man who exposes himself to a lone woman in a railway carriage, which can be a very distressing experience".

The exposure offence carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.

The chairman of the Central Council of British Naturism, Mick Ayers, said Britain's estimated 2.5m naturists would be very pleased by the new wording.

"It's a major step as far as we're concerned... it's a major victory for our lobbying," he said.

His fears had been particularly for unofficial naturist locations, such as certain beaches, he said.

Only nine beaches in the UK are legally designated as naturist, he said, although about 400 beaches are traditionally used by nudists.


"So if a member of the public strolls along, unaware of what the beach is used for, and stumbles across a group of naked people, they could indeed have argued they were alarmed and distressed," he said.

Mr Ayers said he hoped the wording of other clauses in the Bill, such as one against voyeurism which currently gives protection only in buildings, could also be tweaked to further protect naturists.

Another clause in the Bill, targeting people who have sex in public, has already been dropped after complaints that it was confusing and illogical.

Commentators said it could have been used against couples making love in their garden, but not in their house with the curtains open.

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