UK: Police destroy DNA records of men convicted of historic consensual sex offences

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Greater Manchester Police says it has now destroyed dozens of DNA samples taken from men convicted of historic consensual same-sex sexual offences, following criticism of the practice earlier this year.

On Tuesday, Superintendent Chris Ullah, of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), said: “I want to stress that GMP no longer holds DNA records for any man whose only ever encounter with the police concerned consensual same-sex relations.

“Each identified case was risk-assessed and reviewed by officers within the equality team, to ensure that we were going about the process of disregarding records in the most consistent way. We have also been in contact with ACPO Criminal Records Office.

“We continue to fully comply with national guidelines in relation to all issues of record and sample-keeping.”

In January, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell revealed police in Manchester, Northumbria, the West Midlands, and across the country, had visited gay men convicted of historic, consenting, victimless same-sex behaviour and demanded they provide DNA samples.

The samples were taken as part of a police drive to collect the DNA of former convicts in an effort to reduce crime.

Following the allegations, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper called on the government to ensure that gay men were not being “unfairly” targeted.

In one case a former soldier was made to hand over DNA to Greater Manchester Police in relation to a consensual sexual offence of more than 30 years ago.

Stephen Close, from Salford, 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.

Homosexual conduct remained an offence while serving in 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.

Greater Manchester Police subsequently apologised to Mr Close. The force stated the decision to take the sample had been made without “proper consideration”.

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.