Manchester: Police apologise to gay former soldier over DNA sampling

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A former soldier who denounced the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) for taking a DNA sample from him because of a consensual gay sex act in 1983 has received a formal apology.

Stephen Close, 50, raised objections after he received a letter from the police requesting a DNA sample.

He received the support of human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who accused police of carrying out a witch hunt against gay men.

The sample was taken as part of Operation Harvest, a police drive to collect the DNA of former convicts in an effort to cut down on crime.

Mr Close was jailed for six months in Colchester Military Prison in 1983 after admitting to having consensual sex with a colleague in the Royal Fusiliers in Berlin.

Deputy Chief Constable Ian Hopkins gave the following statement on Wednesday: “Following a full review of all the circumstances Greater Manchester Police has decided to destroy DNA samples taken from Mr Stephen Close.

“At no point was his sample put on the DNA database nor was any information put on the Police National Computer (PNC).”

Mr Hopkins also stated that Mr Close had received a visit from police in person to apologise, and to thank him for drawing attention to the matter.

In response to the allegations by Mr Tatchell, Mr Hopkins said the following:

“It is important for me, as Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, to reiterate that this was absolutely not about sexual orientation and I strongly refute any claims of a “witch hunt” by GMP or similar allegations that we are targeting the gay community.

“Setting aside that is simply not true, the force has a strong and engaging Lesbian and Gay Staff Association and as an organisation we have spent a long time building strong relationships with our varying and diverse communities, of which the gay community is a significant and prominent one.”

Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967 but remained an offence while serving with the armed forces until 1994.

Mr Close was jailed for gross indecency as he and his partner were under 21. The age of consent was lowered to 18 in 1994 and then to 16 in 2001.

In October last year, the law quashing historic convictions for consensual gay sex came into force, meaning that gay men previously convicted under the rules can now apply to have their police records wiped.

Plans to change the law were announced by David Cameron on before the 2010 general election.