Navy scuttles gay guidebook

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The Independent Online
Royal Navy officers have been ordered to stop using an official handbook which told them how to identify homosexuals in their crew.

The order follows pressure from gay rights campaigners who claimed the Defence Council Instructions - known as the 'Hello Sailor Handbook' - offered naive advice that perpetuated myths about homosexuality.

The MoD insists, however, that its policy of excluding homosexuals from the forces remains in place. A spokesman said: 'Although new guidelines have been introduced and distributed to commanding officers, homosexuality is still considered incompatible with service life.'

Homosexuality in the armed forces was a criminal offence until 1992 and those found guilty were often dishonourably discharged. Since then the policy has changed and homosexuals are given a simple administrative discharge.

Robert Ely, who served in the Army for 20 years and now chairs the gay servicemen's pressure group Rank Outsiders, said: 'We welcome the new guidelines as an improvement but obviously not as far as we would like them to go.

'They pursue homosexuals vigilantly. The Naval Investigations Unit is wasting a massive amount of money and time investigating these matters. They still automatically assume you are going to be a risk . . . Sexuality, whether homosexual or heterosexual, should only be taken into account when it affects discipline in the front line.'