Imagine that you have been convicted of having sex with your partner. Not of rape, just of having normal, loving sexual intercourse. That couldn’t happen in today’s UK could it? And you would be correct that it would be difficult for a charge on that basis to be made against you.

But, up until 2003 it was possible, for it was only then that the former offence of ‘gross indecency’ was repealed. Now under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 it will be possible for men (in England and Wales) convicted of or cautioned for that offence, to have it disregarded which will mean that they will “by virtue of s 96, … be treated in law as if [they] had not committed the offence or been subject to any legal proceedings in respect of the offence”1

It has been reported that two police forces in England have been visiting men convicted of such offences to obtain DNA samples from them using powers under the Crime and Security Act 2010. These powers are lumping victimless crimes in with serious violent crimes like murder, and rape. Peter Tatchell has said that

“Men convicted of the now repealed consensual offence of ‘gross indecency’ are, in effect, being rebranded a serious criminals and treated on a par with the most vicious, violent sex fiends.

“They are being forced to go through the trauma of police abuse all over again.”

I have written to the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland seeking his assurance that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is not acting in the same way as the Greater Manchester Police and Northumbria Police.

In a letter to one of the victims highlighted by Peter Tatchell, police in Manchester have said:

‘Through investigation of police records you have been identified as a person who has a previous conviction, which falls into one of the above categories (Gross Indecency 1983); and from whom we now wish to obtain a DNA sample….

‘The sample once taken will be processed and place on the National DNA Database, where it will be retained and may be subject to speculative searching either immediately or in the future.

‘You will be asked to consent to provide a sample. If you do not consent at this stage I require you to attend a police station within 7 days. The time and date of your attendance can be discussed with the person delivering this letter.

‘At the police station the sample may be taken with the authority of a police officer of the appropriate rank. If you fail to attend the police station as required you may be liable to arrest.’

I hope that this is not happening here in Northern Ireland, but if it is, I would be grateful if people could get in contact with me.

  1. Halsburys Laws of England, Police (VOLUME 36(1) (2007 REISSUE) accessed online at