Why was the mayor banned from sunbathing naked?

Why was the mayor banned from sunbathing naked?



On 1st October 2013 Keith Brooks, the former Mayor of Cleethorpes, was acquitted of Outraging Public Decency at Grimbsy Crown Court. He was, however, given a Restraining Order that banned him from sunbathing naked in his garden for the next five years.

Why was he acquitted?

He was accused of ‘performing a sex act in front of children’ that was charged as an offence of Outraging Public Decency (we seem to covered that a lot recently – here, here and here). It seems that the prosecution had not put “evidence of any sex act having taken place” before the Court.

It is not clear whether this was at a pre-trial hearing or at a full trial. Either way, without any evidence of that, it is likely that a jury would not convict someone for merely being naked.

Unlike the quashing of an indictment (see this post from yesterday) this is a ‘full’ Not Guilty verdict. Whether it was given by a Judge or a Jury doesn’t matter – Mr Brooks cannot be tried for that offence again.

If he was innocent, why was a Restraining Order made?

This has (understandably) vexed some people. If he was found not guilty, and is therefore innocent, why should he have any ‘penalty’?

A Restraining Order is not a penalty (although breaching it is a criminal offence – an either way offence, so triable in either the Mags or the Crown Court – with a maximum sentence of 5 years). The power to make one is contained in s5A Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (actually slipped in by s12 Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004).

This says that a Court “may, if it considers it necessary to do so to protect a person from harassment by the defendant, make an order prohibiting the defendant from doing anything described in the order.” Although it refers to a ‘person’ singular, it can be for a group of people (here, it may be ‘anyone who can see into Mr Brooks’ garden’ for example).

The CPS have guidance as to what sort of cases would be appropriate for an application on an acquittal, which is always worth reading (even if the CPS don’t always follow their own policy on these points).

The Court of Appeal have looked at this issue several times. It is important that a defendant has a proper opportunity to state why the order is not ‘necessary’ and that they have proper notice of an application and it’s not just sprung on them on the day (K [2011] EWCA Crim 1843)

Interestingly, it would appear that an order can be made against a company. In R v Buxton and Others [2010] EWCA Crim 2923 the court said ‘we have heard nothing to persuade us that a section 5 order cannot go against a company‘.

The ‘burden of proof’ is on the civil standard. This means that the prosecution (who apply for the order) have to show the Court that it was more likely than not that an order was necessary. Although this normally involves showing that the Defendant has in fact previously caused harassment to the ‘victims’, this is not necessary (Major [2010] EWCA Crim 3016).

And when the law says ‘necessary’, it does actually mean necessary, not desirable or helpful. There has to be potential victim(s) identified that could be caused harassment (Smith [2012] EWCA Crim 2566).

As to why the order was deemed to be necessary, we don’t have sufficient information to really assess whether we think it was correct or not, but on the face of it, it is hard to see how sunbathing naked, in a garden, would cause harassment to anyone (but there may be facts that we are unaware of). 

Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.


  1. A correct decision no-one has the right to impose their nudity on others and goodness knows what else he was doing to warrant a restraining order but it speaks volumes.

    • No one has the right to impose their bigoted prudery and body loathing on others either, especially when on their own property and ‘others’ have the option not to look.
      He denied, and no evidence was produced of, sexual activity, so legally there was none. Speculation is therefore not justified, and the judge in making a banning order was merely abusing his position to further his own prejudiced view of the world.
      It is utterly illogical to make a restraining order relating to something which is entirely legal (sunbathing in your own garden). I hope there is an appeal.

    • It is not illegal to sunbathe naked. If the bigots and prudes next door do not like, then they should not look. They are the ones doing wRong, being Peeping Toms. Just because you did like something does not make it illegal. Naturism is a belief, a lifestyle and a state of dress. A state of dress is not a behaviour and cannot cause offence just because a bigot and prude chooses to take it.

  2. It bears repeating, name calling does not change the fact that no-one has the right to impose their nudity on others. And knowing some I have no doubt this will be done aggressively and sexually aggressively. In other words as a form of assault. As with most abusers they will then attempt to blame their victims along the lines of… “it was your fault for having eyes that were open when I wondered into your line of vision naked you Peeping Tom, voyeur” etc ad nauseating.

  3. Being naked ‘imposes’ nothing on anyone any more than having a tattoo or adopting a style of dress that is may not be liked by someone else. In a civilised society we tolerate each others’ foibles and differences. To be intolerant really does ‘impose’ one’s views on others.
    “Sisterhood” has never actually said what she considers so wrong or harmful about the human body. I am sure we would all be fascinated to know.
    Her assumption that his nudity was aggressive is just that, an assumption. The Court found differently having had no evidence offered by the prosecution, but perhaps “Sisterhood” has some other evidence she would like to share with us?

  4. Some (Duncan) fail to grasp that their sarcasm and name calling is not going to deter others (i.e.me) from having an opinion and one which differs from theirs.

    It is quite simple in a civilised society people do not wonder around naked in public, nor should they, and there is nothing which gives them the right to impose their nakedness on others. This is what happens when those who think they can are let lose, here, for example, we see a restraining order which are issued if the law deems them necessary (not just desirable). Therefore we can infer there must have been an extremely good reason for it and I’m sure I’d rather not know what these were as I don’t want to lose my breakfast.

    • You say you don’t want the full facts, and yet you are happy to damn someone based on your speculation alone. Hardly a good principle of justice!
      People do have the right to self expression (ECHR), and how they dress or not is part of that.
      Why not help us understand your point of view by explaining what it is which makes you so repelled by the human body. We may be persuaded if you would deploy some honest logic instead of mere repetition of unsubstantiated statements of opinion presented as fact.