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”.
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.