12 July 2009

Breaching the peace in intolerant Scotland...

I’m starting to dread idiosyncratic headlines with the words “breach of the peace” in the title. Last year it was a bloke having sex with his bike in a bed and breakfast when a brace of Ayr-based cleaning dames battered their way into his room in order to have their peace sexually interrupted. Every year, it is the naked rambler Steve Gough. This week, apparently, it’s the now ex-Principal of Aberdeen College who was charged with breach earlier this year due to “inappropriate clothes” that prompted “complaints from residents”. The mercy of this case is that Angus will not now make an appearance in Aberdeen Sheriff Court, the matter having been dealt with by the Procurator Fiscal. Unlike the aforementioned cyclesexualist, who was subject to the full patronising process of judicial examination and punishment.

Discretion and embarrassment being what it is, facts in these circumstances are difficult to come by. Vague innuendo prevails, with nudges and winks. Since the facts matter, one should obviously be a touch cautious about overzealous outrage and precipitous condemnation. Nevertheless, the skeletal detail about Mr Angus’ arrest does not augur well. While BBC & Scotsman had almost no detail, the Herald – in an article headlining “Man avoids court over charged linked to ‘cross-dressing’ - got a little more explicit.

Sayeth “Scotland’s leading quality daily newspaper”, “Police were called to his Newburgh home after complaints from local residents, who were said to have taken offence to him allegedly wearing women’s clothes outside his house. After an investigation he was charged with breach of the peace …” Coaxing one of these neighbours into speculation, the Herald reporter induced the “woman in her 50s” to reveal that she believed the complaints had involved three neighbours. “His neighbours claimed to have seen him wandering around in women’s clothes a few times. They’re supposed to have been beautiful tops and skirts. It all started off last year when he was supposedly seen walking around the house in them.” A gobsworth, identified as a friend of one of these neighbours continued “At one point he was supposedly wearing a basque in the window. And another he walked up the street with silky knickers and tights on. When we first heard the rumour he was dressing in women’s clothes, we thought it was funny – he could have been practicing his lines for pantomime for all we know.But then it started to become too much and they decided to call the police in.”

Clearly a flagrant breacher of public serenity then. One had to pull one’s net curtains all the way open, lean out, squint through binoculars – to see the 61 year old chap, done up in his swanky lingerie in his own house. None of what is outlined is, to my mind, even remotely a matter for public order concern, never mind police action. Would these neighbours have responded in the same way if it was a woman wearing the silky knickers and tights? Not knowing the minds and characters of rural Aberdeenshire in general, nor Newburgh in particular – I wouldn’t care to guess. However, when low-grade, narrow-skulled rural numpties find an individual’s clothing selection eccentric – and sufficiently upsetting in all good conscience to enforce their stern-sphinctered gender fixations by calling in the polis – then I get concerned.

I stress – it is perfectly possible that Angus got up to something else which was more offensive than the speculative, fourth-hand account given in the Herald suggests. The out-of-court disposal of the case would suggest otherwise. Indeed, if something graver was indicated, I imagine one of the neighbours might be able to dredge up something giddier when questioned. Their silence may well speak to their regrets. If there really is nothing more to it than a chap wandering down the street in improbable underthings, they should repent. Seriously. Equally, so too should the rest of us, who allow such apparently vindictive, narrow, smug, canting, pious, Presbyterian prudery to retain any purchase in our public life and animate the chastising discipline of state officers. That a man wearing "women's clothes" should be sufficiently interesting to induce the police to come chapping is appalling.

To quote old Tom Nairn, half quoting Diderot, Scotland won’t be free until the last church minister has been strangled with the last copy of The Sunday Post....


  1. You have me worried now Lallands. I wear trousers a great deal of the time and also a man's shirt when gardening (it protects me from scratches etc and saves wear and tear on my own clothing).

    My own neighbours aren't of an amiable nature so I'll expect a knock from the polis any day now.

  2. I must be lucky as I've been known on occasion to stick the ole knackers betwix my legs, pull on some lace panties and give the pea patch a good hoeing. Neither my fellow gardeners nor the staff and pupils of the next door nursery have batted an eyelid at my actions and I am free to do as I please. God bless the open-minded folk of Glasgow.

  3. I completely agree with you LPW. Good post.

  4. BTW, this post has the dubious honour of becoming the first Caron's Corker:-)