Government gives police `gay register'

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The Independent Online
The Government has for the first time admitted keeping computer records on the sexuality of men and women in the armed forces and passing the details on to the civilian police.

David Clark, Labour's shadow defence secretary, tabled a series of written questions following the case of a former Royal Navy seaman who applied to work for a rape crisis centre in Portsmouth.

After the centre conducted a routine criminal record check, the former seaman was told that he could not have the job. He demanded to see his criminal record - he was not aware of any conviction - and discovered that the conviction was his dismissal fromthe Royal Navy 17 years previously for being homosexual.

An ex-military policewoman has stated that she knew the Ministry of Defence kept a dossier on gays and lesbians in the services.

The record, which is also available to the police, Post Office and British Telecom, is held at the Central and Criminal Records office of the Royal Military Police in Earl's Court, London.

As well as detailing their sexual orientation, the register also listed their partners, ex-partners and acquaintances.

The Armed Forces Minister, Nicholas Soames, admitted to Mr Clark that the information is available to the civilian police. He said the police could request and receive information from military records to assist in their investigations.

Peter Tatchell, the spokesman for Outrage - the hardline gay campaigning group - said last night: "It is scandalous that people who have been dismissed from the armed forces because of their homosexual orientation are logged as having a criminal conviction despite not having committed a criminal offence."

The revelation that the MoD are keeping secret records and sending them to the civilian police will be seen as cutting across their liberalising move last year in which they pledged to stop treating homosexuality in the forces as a technical criminal offence and, instead, making it a disciplinary offence.