Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Police Launch a Homophobic Witch Hunt - already covering and lying

That’s the rather innocuous title of a police initiative to harvest DNA for the national database from violent and sexual criminals who have since been released. They go visit said released criminals who are “convicted of the most serious offences” and demand their DNA or that person faces arrest.

While there are numerous wrangles that go with the dubious nature of the DNA database, we have an extra lump of homophobia on this one

Gay men who have criminal records for being gay are being targeted. Some of these are gay men who were arrested for being gay before it was repealed in the 60s, or arrested for being gay in the military which was only repealed in 1994. Or when we had sex under the then age of consent (the age of consent for gay men was only equalised in 2001. I remember vividly because I was breaking that law). Add in, of course, that police through the ages have pursued numerous, highly homophobic attacks at gay clubs, gay cruising spots and anywhere else where entrapment or manufactured evidence – or even just accusation (after all, if you accuse a closeted gay man of a crime, he can plead guilty and try to get it over with quickly, or fight it and be Outed). Gay men have long been the targets of now repealed “gross indecency” laws which became tools by the police to persecute us long after being gay was no longer a crime.

But under Operation Nutmeg, apparently being gay counts as one of those “violent and sexual criminals” and police are going to see these gay men who were targeted in the past and demanding their DNA. Now, anyone with common sense would assume this meant those guilty of sexual assaults and rapes. But then, common sense has always taken a back seat to homophobia.

So far there are reports of the police doing this in Manchester, Northumberland, West Midlands and London, but it’s a national scheme and it seems unlikely

Different forces have responded to the revelations with different methods.

Northumberland has run with “nope nope nope, totally not true, honest.” And they had other criminal records honest – maybe (albeit doubtful), but shall we look at Manchester’s excuse?

Manchester ran with “he had other convictions.” Yes, theft. Theft is a sexual and violent crime? Are straight thieves being targeted under this provision harvesting DNA from sexual and violent criminals? Because I’m seeing lots of “murder/rape/sexual assault” on Operation Nutmeg, not thieving. Even they had to backtrack and apologise on this one when they realised they didn’t have a leg to stand on. To that one victim – they’re treating it as isolated.

How many others have been caught in this? How many others who may be afraid to come forwards (who already have reason to be afraid of the police, after all?) And how much are assurances that the erroneously (i.e. homophobically) collected DNA will be destroyed?

The lesson, as ever, is that it’s vitally important to be careful with your trust. While most police forces are now trying to make their homophobia less blatant, it’s still a major problem. Whenever possible ensure you have a lawyer present when having to deal with the police, always take the name and Force Identification Number of all police you have dealings with. If it is safe for you to do so in your situation, do take your story to the press (even if it is just our own GBLT press) because it’s only through numbers and noise that we can stop bigoted bullshit like this.