Yvette Cooper warns against ‘unfair’ police DNA targeting of gay men

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Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper says she is concerned by allegations of gay men being forced to give DNA samples to police officers.

On Wednesday, a gay former solider received a formal apology from Greater Manchester Police after he was made to give a DNA sample for a national database under new powers for investigating historical crimes.

Stephen Close, 50, from Salford, said the sample was taken because of a 30-year-old conviction for having consensual sex with another man.

Greater Manchester Police said the decision to take the sample had been made without “proper consideration”.

Earlier in the week, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who gave his support to Mr Close, claimed police in Northumbria and the West Midlands were also engaging in similar practices.

Responding to the allegations, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called on the government and Home Secretary Theresa May to intervene. Ms Cooper said: “The Home Secretary must make sure that the ACPO guidance on Operation Nutmeg is being properly and rigorously followed by every police force, ensuring that there can be absolutely no question of gay men being unfairly targeted to give DNA samples.

“I also urge the Home Secretary to do more to ensure that gay men who still have offences on their criminal record which have now been decriminalised know how and where to apply to have those convictions removed.”

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said police should demand DNA samples for only the most serious of previous offenders.

Forces seeking DNA samples from people convicted solely of consensual sex acts which are no longer criminal goes against ACPO guidance.

In a statement, a Home Office spokesperson said: “It is unacceptable that homosexual men have been living for decades with criminal records for consensual sex. The government has taken concrete action to remove this slur on their character and allow those affected by this to apply for their convictions to be disregarded.

“DNA is a great aid to the police in preventing and detecting crime but we need to ensure the right people are on the database. Under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, only those convicted of a criminal offence will have their DNA retained indefinitely.”

Thousands of ex-offenders have been targeted by Operation Nutmeg, which aims to add the DNA of 12,000 people to the police national database.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said on Wednesday it would re-issue guidance to police forces on taking DNA samples.