Written by Daniel Cox23/03/2024
[Artwork by “MPJ-DK“]

To William Wallace, “freedom” was just an interesting sound to wail whilst getting your head lopped off (Spoilers). To the modern man, it's more than mere rhetoric.

Your personal freedoms are something you should be able to rely on. I rest easy at night knowing that I have certain freedoms. Certain liberties. If I spend my day-off enjoying the countryside wearing my favourite latex bodysuit, I am legally within my right to do so. The local police may sneer and jeer from afar as I flaunt my freedom, but they cannot interfere with my individualism. 

Whilst performing this peaceful passtime only mildly interests me, I rest easy knowing that it's a genuine option. All is right in the world where the only thing stopping me gimping around the peak district is an overpriced train ticket. The state may raise my taxes, seize my property, draft me into an overseas war, but boy do I sleep soundly knowing that a more fundamental right remains.

Sadly, this constant in my life has come under threat. 

For years now an urban myth has been enchanting the Shire of Somerset. The tale speaks of a featureless figure, ever lurking in the wetlands and only seen by moonlight and wood-spirits.

Superstition and mystery, however, were abruptly killed in 2018 when the figure was sighted out and about in broad daylight. Far from enchanting the onlooker, one unfortunate villager recalls seeing a man dressed in a complete latex gimp suit with no eye holes. Since then, The Gimp’s infamy has only grown, giving rise to more sightings along with the no-nonsense nickname: “The Somerset Gimp”. 

The Gimp enjoyed a long and unchallenged run of flaunting and frollicking until last year when a pair of timid motorists caught him writhing in the road. The pair, being so completely terrified, saw to go straight to the police; leading to the culprit’s capture. He was soon unmasked (in Scooby Doo fashion) as a Mr Joshua Hunt, Somerset local and self-employed gardener.

Now I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘no harm done’. Perhaps an apology and a slap on the wrist might see this whole affair put to bed. ‘Naughty Mr Hunt! You silly old Somerset eccentric, on your merry way and run faster next time’. Well you’d be wrong.

Joshua Hunt was pulled before Bristol Magistrates Court and found guilty of intentionally causing harassment, alarm and distress under The Public Order Act 1986 s 4A. Having already spent a month on remand in prison prior to trial, the Judge fined him £100, along with an additional £620 for prosecution costs and ordered him to pay £200 compensation to each of the petrified pair. He is also now a registered sex offender and, under his sexual risk order, is forbidden from expressing himself in a gimp-like way for 5 years.


I can’t help but feel very sorry for Joshua. When Hunt had chosen to crawl around in the road, he had not then known the motorists were in fact the most feeble fellows in England. The world is far stranger than gimps in the dark, so they have plenty more scares and plenty more payouts to look forward to. Perhaps adding The Somerset Gimp to the DVLA’s Hazard Perception Test would encourage a generation of less lily-livered motorists.

In all seriousness, the motorists are far from the problem. My issue is with the police and the court for pursuing this attack against individualism. Why Hunt’s actions can be considered any differently from partygoers on halloween or actors in the saw maze is beyond me. Like the latest horror flick, Hunt was not out to harm, but to shock and intrigue. Surely harassment can’t be solely measured by the fear of our most timid citizens, else we might all be labelled as criminals and my father would be forced to stop taking the bin out in his pyjamas.

In my eyes, Hunt is one of England’s new martyrs for self-expression, and evidence of a state that seeks to restrict, as a pose to empower, our individual liberties. It's sad to see this harmless act of eccentricity (or otherwise, cry for help) misread as criminal behaviour.

© nicked journal Uncovering Legal Absurdities