UK police accused of wrongly taking DNA of gay men

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In 1983, Stephen Close was arrested, jailed and expelled from the British army for having sex with a male squad mate.

Three decades later, police tracked him down to the northern England city of Salford and demanded a sample of his DNA. Close, now 50 and openly gay, said he was shocked.

I was horrified that after all these years they suddenly decided to bring this up again,'' Close said in a telephone interview from Salford, 205 miles (330 kilometers) north of London.

While it is not illegal in the U.K. to collect genetic material from adults, Britain's DNA database _ one of the largest in the world, with some 6 million samples _ has long been a magnet for controversy. Human rights advocate Peter Tatchell says gay men convicted years ago under Britain's now-defunct gross indecency law may have had their rights violated recently by British police who ordered them to submit their genetic material to the database.

It is absolutely wrong to lump a consenting, victimless offense like `gross indecency' with rape and child sex abuse,'' Tatchell told The Associated Press.

Europe's top human rights court in 2008 struck down a British law that allowed the government to store DNA and fingerprints from people with no criminal record. But in 2011, a new law allowed police to collect DNA from offenders who had been convicted of serious offenses before the DNA database was created in 1995.

Amanda Cooper of the Association of Chief Police Officers' DNA database program said police forces were told that certain sexual offences, such as gross indecency and buggery, should not have a DNA sample taken on the grounds of a sole conviction.''

In Close's case, he was first convicted of a gross indecency charge and later theft.

The "gross indecency'' law dates back to 1885, and has been used to persecute thousands of English homosexuals, including playwright Oscar Wilde, who spent two years in prison after a trial in 1895, and World War II code breaker Alan Turing, who committed suicide after being convicted in 1952.

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