Naturists urged to fight offensive behaviour fines

Stuart McConville, who beat a charge of offensive behaviour for swimming naked at the Tyagarah Tea Tree Lake in April. Photo supplied

Naturist Stuart McConville, who beat an offensive behaviour charge in Byron Bay Local Court last week, is encouraging other people who’ve been charged go to court rather than pay the fine.

Mr McConville pleaded guilty to the offence for legal reasons, but Magistrate Dunlevy recorded no conviction.

Mr McConville welcomed the result and said it should encourage others who had been served with a fine, adding that taking the matter to court cost him less than the $500 fine he would have had to pay.

He said the magistrate described the offence as ‘trivial’ and ‘at the lowest end of the criminal spectrum’.

He added the magistrate’s refusal to convict him ‘puts into doubt the police’s zero tolerance strategy’.

‘It suggests people who are simply naked without the intention to offend people will be treated lightly in court,’ he said.

‘If that’s the case, fines won’t be forthcoming to the government and police will be wasting court time and money unless they have a case against someone acting in an offensive manner.’

He said Magistrate Dunlevy ‘had a really good attitude – he openly questioned my plea. He said “you know there’s contention in Byron Shire as to whether being naked is an offence”.

Unclear evidence

Mr McConville was nabbed at Tyagarah Tea Tree lake, where he’s bathed numerous times before, on a week day early in April.

‘I was probably there for 10 minutes at most. Myself and my girlfriend had just been down to the beach and I washed the salt off while she waited on the shore.’

He said he missed the sign advising that the Tea Tree Lake was no longer a clothing-optional area, ‘because I was barefoot – I was looking at the ground’.

Mr McConville said police had been observing him from some distance and ‘took photographs through a screen of fairly obfuscating vegetation’.

‘The evidence that the court presented didn’t even show my genitals in the pictures.

‘The magistrate made mention of the fact that the photos were not clear.’

When the two police approached Mr McConville and told him he was going to be fined he told them they were ‘over-policing nudity – sex acts are what they should be policing’.

‘I said I’d been swimming there on a fairly regular basis since I was 19 but I live outside the area now and wasn’t fully aware of the whole debate going on’.

Mr McConville described the female police officer who fined him as ‘polite’ but the male officer with her as ‘belligerent’.

‘I said, “I’m a good community citizen”. You need people like me on your side.’

‘I asked why I was allowed to ride down the main street of Byron Bay fully naked [on the World Naked Bike Ride] but not here?’

‘He said, “I wasn’t there – I would’ve fined you”.’

Cultural values questioned

Mr McConville also questioned the cultural values of some local Indigenous leaders who he believed had ‘taken a very “Christian”, dogmatic view of nudity at the Tea Tree Lake’.

‘If this is the case, we have to start reminding our respected elders that their ancestors bathed there for thousands of years – and they bathed there naked.

‘There is a cultural reverence for those lakes among many of the people who bathe down there naked, regardless of their race or background,’ he said.




12 responses to “Naturists urged to fight offensive behaviour fines”

  1. Well Im glad no conviction was recorded and you may have your legal reasons yet you were clearly not guilty of offensive behaviour and Im trusting that the next case going before the courts where the defendant declares a not guilty plea will prove this. When everyone challenges their fine and it gets thrown out and the police spend endless waisted hours doing paper work and court time then the police will be forced to back off and use discretion when thinking about charging someone with offensive behaviour. Its police over reaction 20 years ago that prompted council to declare an isolated area a nude beach that we never wanted. Then came the bad and sometime dangerous acts in this isolated area. Time for the police to get the balance right and reflect more accurately community values.

  2. Tony says:

    Nakedness is about culture.
    Many cultures embrace nakedness.
    There are many good reasons that social nudism
    should be an accepted part of our social norms.
    1.Many young people today suffer from great
    expectations that they need to confirm to
    unrealistic body images presented to them by glamour magazines and other media. As a result many suffer a great range of mental health issues. sometimes even suicide.
    2.Many people have a recognised senitivity to certain types of clothing, (people on the spectrum )
    Sensory overload.
    Many clothing manufacturers now recognize this and make clothing to cater to their needs.
    For many people, the forced wearing of clothing can have a serious impact on the quality of their lives.
    At the end of the day, it is really all about understanding and tolerance.
    If you are embarrassed by the sight of a naked person, just remember that it is your embarrassment, that you alone should have to deal with.
    Bad behavior, is never acceptable, and should be dealt with.
    Nakedness on its own should not be regarded as bad behavior.

  3. Greg says:

    “Naturist Stuart McConville, who beat an offensive behaviour charge in Byron Bay Local Court last week . . . ”

    Pedantic I know, but . . . . . “Mr McConville pleaded guilty to the offence for legal reasons, but Magistrate Dunlevy recorded no conviction” does not constitute “beating” a charge.

    If Stuart had “no conviction recorded”, he would have, in fact, been found guilty by the magistrate, as per his plea.

    Perhaps a “Naturist Stuart McConville, who escaped penalty after pleading guilty . . . . . .” would be a fairer representation of the proceedings.

    As they say in the classics . . . . . . . Just sayin’ :>

  4. al oshlack says:

    Tea Tree Lakes is a Womans site very sacred to Traditional Owners, There is a mens site nearby,

    Sadly not a good look to swim there.naked.or clothed

    • Stuart J McConville says:

      My information suggests Tyagarah ti tree lakes are a result of sand mining rehabilitation so can’t see how they could be considered a sacred womans site…

  5. Dr Whoo says:

    The male police officer was probably envious that you have a better body than he does Stuart!

  6. PeterL says:

    Nakedness is a choice it is not a cultural right or rite. As long as you are not offending anyone and being naked in an appropriate and designated place like a beach there should be no problem
    I think every person should challenge their fine. Police overreaction is a waste of resources and the courts time. If I were a magistrate I would be furious.

  7. Jay Gordon says:

    What a weird world we live in. We can watch tv shows like Body Hack or Game of Thrones and see all manner of nudity. Should I call the police when this happens to have the actors arrested?

    One could wear a micro thin g-string weighing a few grams that serves no purpose but to cover genitalia to comply with the absurd anti-nudity law.

    Just for being naked as nature intended whilst harming nobody we can be arrested and have a criminal recorded recorded against us that jeopardises our future in so many ways.

    A survey of the community about what we believe the police should be spending their time doing would find we want protection from real criminals, burglary, theft, domestic violence. etc

    It’s time that laws like this were reviewed so they reflect this day and age and not some Victorian era puritanical prudishness.

  8. Jen says:

    Pleading guilty for legal reasons with no conviction recorded. This usually implies an agreement with the prosecutor. It is also basically to say McConville was coerced into pleading guilty. Obviously McConville knows he is not guilty and he would have pleaded not guilty if it was in his best interests to do so.

    If McConville pleaded not guilty he would have been entitled to claim costs – lost income, travel costs, amongst other things. And the prosecutor would have to wear the costs of the court, as well.
    The ‘plea deal’ is also to prevent a precedent being set – the prosecutor would have been well aware of this

    So, the message is, definitely protest your fine, and you have a chance of not only costing the police but also claiming costs for yourself – and helping everyone whom comes after you

    • Stuart J McConville says:

      The local court outcomes do not set prevedents in law. That was the main reason I didnt plead not guilty. Also another person has alrrady entered a not guilty plea…so a test case will happen anyway.

  9. Jack says:

    Excellent advice Jen. And presumably the cost of legal representation would be less than the $500 police issued fine.

  10. Stuart J McConville says:

    Local court outcomes dont result in legal precedents…

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