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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 22:20 GMT
Window model's cover-up order
Keith the model at Starling Vendetta Boutique
Keith the model was created for a Fine Art degree course
The owners of a clothes shop have been ordered by police to cover up a window display depicting a naked man for fear it may cause "distress" to the public.

A Gwent Police officer told Flick Sawkins and Angela Harker of Starling Vendetta Boutique they could be prosecuted unless the body was clothed.

A strategically-placed fig leaf now hides the modesty of the window artwork in the Newport shop.

An online petition has been launched against the cover-up.

Kate Montgomery, 21, who created the artwork, said she was surprised at how much interest it had generated.

Recently graduated from a Fine Art degree course at Newport University, the main character of the shop window display - called Keith - had been created for her course.

"To be honest, I can't get my head around how people are being about it, it's really surreal and ridiculous
Artist Kate Montgomery

When her friends relaunched their shop last month, she agreed to put some of her art in the window, but said she had not expected the reaction she got.

"Some of the old ladies walk past and they do look a bit horrified but most people see it and laugh," she said.

"I think some people are worried children might see it, but when you see parents walking with their children, they stop and have a look and then they laugh."

Wardens working for Newport City Council were initially approached by shoppers about the naked figure before the complaint was passed to police.

The shop was then told it faced prosecution under section 5 of the Public Order Act for causing "alarm or distress" unless the art work was censored.

But an online petition has been launched by supporters of the art work to allow it to be shown properly.

'Alarm and distress'

"We've had a lot of support," said Ms Montgomery.

She promised that once the fuss about Keith had died down, a replacement figure would be put in the window instead called Barbara - and she will also be completely naked.

The owners of the boutique, which only opened last month, said on their website: "According to the officers visiting us, under a "Section 4, or is it 5?", the art work causes "alarm and distress" and as such must be covered or removed to avoid a hefty fine.

"How many other things can you think of which cause alarm and distress while walking round Newport city centre?"

A spokeswoman for Gwent Police said a local Police Community Support Officer advised the shop owners they cover up the model because it was causing "alarm and distress to passers-by."

"It wasn't a warning and they have since covered it up and we haven't had any further complaints," she said.

"It is a potential offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act if it causes harassment alarm or distress.

"If we get any complaints or the council get any complaints we will act on it but since then it hasn't been flagged up as an issue."

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