Manchester police apologise to gay man over DNA sample

A DNA autoradiogram
Image caption Police gained new powers under the Crime and Security Act last year

Police have apologised to a gay man who was forced to give a DNA sample for a national database under new powers for investigating historical crimes.

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

However, the law under which Mr Close was convicted is no longer in force.

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

The sample had now been destroyed, the force added.

'Apologise personally'

The force said it was also reviewing decisions to demand DNA samples from other people as part of an operation to gain more information about historical offenders.

Mr Close was convicted of gross indecency in 1983 because he had sex with another soldier when both men were under 21, which was the age of consent at the time.

Deputy Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: "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)."

He added: "A senior police officer visited him last night to update him on our position and to apologise personally about what has happened.

"We also thanked him for bringing this matter to our attention and as a result we are now reviewing the cases of those who have had samples taken and those still to be taken.

"I am very conscious of the very personal and sensitive issues raised by Mr Close in relation to his own case and that was clearly a factor in our decision making."

On Monday, Greater Manchester Police said its decision to demand a DNA sample from Mr Close two weeks ago had nothing to do with his sexuality but related to a second conviction for theft in 1995.

Law repealed

Since the Crime and Security Act became law last year, police have had powers to force thousands of past offenders across England and Wales to provide a DNA sample in order to help solve serious crimes such as murder, rape and manslaughter dating back up to 40 years.

Mr Close's case was one of two that have come to light recently where the offenders in question were gay men who said they were compelled to provide a sample because of convictions under a law that was repealed a decade ago.

A gay man from Newcastle, who was fined more than two decades ago for gross indecency at the age of 20, said he was recently told by Northumbria Police that he would be arrested if he refused to provide a DNA sample.

The force said he was not targeted because of his sexuality.

Both men agreed to provide samples but complained at being bracketed with serious offenders such as rapists and murderers.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said police should demand DNA samples for only the most serious of previous offenders, but it was up to each force to make decisions based on the risk posed by individuals.

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. Some 2,000 of them are in Greater Manchester.

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