Nude jogging 'same as a gang patch' - judge

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2012
Andrew Pointon
MARK McKEOWN/Fairfax NZ
FEELING OF FREEDOM: Naturist Andrew Pointon started jogging naked about 18 months ago. He says the High Court decision is a win for libertarians.

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The right to go jogging in the nude has been upheld by the High Court.

Andrew Lyall Pointon, 47, was wearing only a pair of shoes when he was spotted by a woman while running at 8.30am in a forest near Tauranga in August last year.

The woman, who was walking her dog, was so offended and threatened by what she had seen that she vowed not to return to the Oropi Bike Park.

She lodged a complaint with police and three days later Mr Pointon was arrested as he emerged naked from the forest after another run.

He was charged with offensive behaviour and found guilty in Tauranga District Court last December.

An appeal was thrown out in June, but a second appeal was yesterday upheld by Justice Paul Heath in the High Court at Tauranga.

"If it was [offensive] then God wouldn't have given us genitals," Mr Pointon told The Dominion Postyesterday. "It is a win for all libertarians and a setback for all conservatives in the country."

However, Family First spokesman Bob McCoskrie said he was disappointed with Justice Heath's decision, which showed "double standards".

"Is it OK for someone to streak through his courtroom? He'd be the first one to put them in the cells."

Justice Heath compared the case with the hypothetical scenario of two patched gang members strolling along the same track.

"It would not be surprising for a person in the position of the complainant to be concerned and discomforted by their presence, and even to feel threatened," he said.

"However, on any view, their behaviour would not be regarded as offensive behaviour. Should the sight of a naked man, in the circumstances in which the complainant found herself, be treated any differently? I think not."

Mr Pointon - a naturist for more than two decades - is no stranger to controversy. Events he has organised have caused an uproar among members of the community, including a nude bike ride at Papamoa in March to draw attention to global emissions. Residents threatened to form a human chain to stop the event.

Two months before his arrest he was trespassed from McLaren Falls Park and given a warning by police after a 7-kilometre naked run.

Mr Pointon said yesterday he enjoyed the freedom of not wearing clothes and began running naked about 18 months ago because he thought New Zealand was becoming more liberal, particularly with discussions around gay marriage. "It's just another lifestyle and I want respect for it."

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He lashed out at the woman who complained to police. "It's just ludicrous. Has this person got nothing better to do than wasting everyone's time?

"All she saw was a naked man running through the bush. It was just a fleeting moment, which has cost us all.

"It just shows that it was a stupid decision by police to go ahead . . . and charge me for something totally irrelevant."

Justice Heath said Mr Pointon was a genuine naturist who had chosen a time of day when it was unlikely children would be on the track.

"While the complainant was discomforted by the sight of Mr Pointon and . . . instinctively responded to that feeling, the encounter was brief."

Mr Pointon's lawyer Michael Bott - a specialist in human rights and civil liberties - said he could not understand why women were able to ride naked down the main street of Tauranga during the Boobs on Bikes event without intervention and yet days later his client was arrested going about his business in a remote area: "It just appears inconsistent and grossly sexist."

If the original decision went unchallenged, it would have had a "chilling effect" on freedom of expression, he said.

"Police should learn to become more tolerant and learn New Zealand is becoming increasing tolerant of a . . . variety of lifestyle choices and expressions."

Mr McCoskrie said there was a time and a place for nakedness and it was not in a public place.

"It's offensive to most of the population - that's why most of us wear clothes."

In a similar case, Nick Lowe was convicted of offensive behaviour and fined $200 after he was stopped by police while riding his bike naked in Akatarawa Rd, north of Upper Hutt, in March 2009 - World Nude Bike Day.

However, a year later Justice Denis Clifford ruled Mr Lowe's nakedness had not met the test of offensive behaviour. He quashed the conviction and fine.

Mr Lowe said he had supported Mr Pointon throughout his ordeal and the decision would "empower people to pursue outdoor pursuits without clothes".

Contact Blair Ensor
Police reporter
Email: blair.ensor@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @blairensor

- The Dominion Post

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