NATURISTS have defended a man who was seen riding a bike naked in Penketh - claiming the cyclist had committed no crime.

Residents reported a male cycle with no clothes on near to Fiddlers Ferry Boat Yard and Penketh Mount on Sunday afternoon.

Cheshire Police confirmed that it was investigating these reports.

But British Naturism - a members organisation which promotes naturism in the UK - believes that the man was acting innocently.

It cited the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which states that naturists are free to roam in the nude as long as no malice is intended.

Andrew Welch of British Naturism said that its members were 'horrified' to hear the news that the cyclist had been reported to the police.

He said: "It's an important point and it frustrates us.

"I think that there is a presumption that a naked man must be up to something, when in fact the law is now incredibly clear.

"There is no action needed unless a crime is being committed.

"Naturism - taking your clothes off specifically because you want to sunbathe or feel the air on your skin - was named as an exclusion from the Sexual Offences Act.

"A naturist just doing his or her normal thing is not committing any kind of crime.

"It doesn't have to be behind closed doors or in a designated area - anybody can take their clothes off and be a human being without committing a crime, unless they absolutely set out to offend someone."

British Naturism has been working with police forces across the UK in the past few years in order to better educate officers about its practices.

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Andrew added: "The law is clear, but the culture is not - people aren't used to nudity, and think that a naked person must be up to something a bit strange.

"Maybe they think that person is a bit deranged to take their clothes off, and with the weather in this country sometimes you can't blame them.

"If I looked out my window one morning and there was a naked person in the street outside then it would go through my mind too.

"What often happened in the past was that the police would be alerted, and a naked man in the street would be arrested or cautioned.

"But the change has come because we have been working with the police over the last few years to get them to pay attention to what the law actually says.

"Because of all that work, they are now training the police to work out whether a crime is being committed.

"The law has been the same for 15 years, but the way it has been applied had been bad - but it's now being done in the right way."