A naturist has claimed he was “harassed” and “assaulted” by a Met Police officer off-duty for being naked in public.
Richard Collins said the officer walked past him on May 13 as he sat on a bench in Hastings, East Sussex.
The officer pulled over, showed his police ID and ordered him to get dressed because the area’s children were “in distress”, a claim Mr Collins refutes.
He refused to get dressed, citing the College of Policing’s guidelines on public nudity.
But the officer who was off duty said he was committing a crime and called 999.
At least six officers from Sussex Police arrived at the scene in three police cars.
“I’ve sat naked in this place several times over the past two weeks, for up to two hours each time, without incident,” Mr Collins said.
“A couple stopped to chat. They weren’t bothered at all by my nudity and we were talking for about five minutes when an off-duty Metropolitan Police officer came down the hill and approached me.
“He identified himself, showed me his ID and claimed I was committing an offense of ‘indecent exposure’ and asked me to get dressed.
“I continued to sit naked, refusing to get dressed and trying to explain that the College of Policing guidelines designate naked cycling, walking, swimming, sunbathing, etc. as “lawful activities” in which there is no element of sexual conduct or sexual intent gives rise to alarm and distress.’
The College of Policing guidelines state: “The offense of disregard for public decency is when a person’s conduct is so indecent, obscene or disgusting as to shock a reasonable person.” This sets a high legal threshold, that simple public nudity would not achieve.
“A naturist whose intention is limited to going about his legitimate business naked will not be guilty of any of these sexual offenses.”
Mr Collins claimed the off-duty police officer would not let him leave the area and snapped the strap of his bag.
He decided to call 999 as well because he felt “harassed” by the situation.
“After waiting another ten minutes or so, I got up and left, not believing the police would come. He asked me to wait and said I was being held. “I refused on the grounds that it was unlawful detention,” Mr Collins said.
“I found him following me up the hill, telling me to stop again and again saying I was being held.
“When he said Sussex Police were on their way I turned to return to the seat I had been sitting in but despite saying that was my intention he repeatedly blocked my path by saying side to side in front of me as I tried to walk around him.’
Mr Collins was then forced to get dressed but claimed the officer was still trying to restrain him.
He said, “I decided to put on my skirt, walk down the steps to the old town and have a coffee as I had planned.” I told him that.
“He called 999 again to ask where the police were and although I was now dressed he claimed the offense of ‘indecent exposure’ had been established and told me to stay and answer. Again I refused and started walking down the steps.’
Sussex Police officers spoke to the off-duty officer, after which Mr Collins was released from arrest.
‘He [the Met officer] was taken aside by the senior officer. He then appeared in front of me and said in the following words: “Having listened to the words of Sussex Police, I shall release you from arrest,” Mr Collins said.
“Then it was explained to me that the Met police officer had abused his powers off duty and there was a case that needed to be reported.”
“I have unpleasant memories of the situation and feel my confidence has been affected.” “I would like to thank Sussex Police for their professional and impartial action in resolving this situation.”
A Sussex Police spokesman added: “We can confirm that we have responded to a report that a naked man was arrested by an off-duty Met Police officer in Hastings on May 13. No offenses were committed and the man was released from custody.”
A Met spokesman said a formal complaint had been received and was “being evaluated.”
They added: “On Saturday May 13, an off-duty MPS officer arrested a man on suspicion of indecent exposure after seeing him naked in Hastings Old Town.”
“Sussex Police were called and after consultation with them the man was released. Then he went on his way.’
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