Does the name Stephen Gough mean anything to you? His other perhaps more well-known sobriquet is The Naked Rambler, who first came to prominence in 2003 when he walked naked, apart from a backpack, hiking boots, socks and sometimes a hat, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. The authorities, most notably in Scotland, took a dim view of his public nudity and he has spent a large slice of time since then locked up in jail.
Last week, as reported in The Telegraph, he was released from Perth prison, only to be immediately re-arrested outside as he continued to refuse to wear clothing.
Now, apart from questioning the sanity of anyone who doesn’t want to put on at least three layers given the recent arctic-like weather conditions, I can’t help but despair that the only approach to this issue the authorities can find is sticking the man behind bars.
He is undoubtedly eccentric and perhaps obsessive. But is he a danger to himself or society? His biggest crime seems to be simply that he refuses to do what he’s told, with the result that the punishments are becoming ever more draconian.
Most comments around the internet that I’ve seen follow the general line that in this case the law is being an ass. Though a few people ask what are you supposed to do with someone who persistently re-offends and one commentator condemned him with that old rhetorical chestnut “would you want to live next to him?” Personally, I have no trouble thinking of a whole bunch of people I’d prefer not to live next to and Stephen Gough doesn’t even make the reserve list.
Seven years into this saga and the best that the latest judge can do is send him back to jail and ask for psychological and psychiatric reports. Don’t tell me no-one thought to ask for those before now. Surely it’s time he was getting care in community. Or better still, just left to his own choice of winter clothing.