A NORTH-EAST police force has denied charges that it is targeting gay men for DNA samples.

Northumbria Police chiefs were responding to claims by gay rights activists that officers were visiting the homes of men convicted of consenting same-sex behaviour three decades ago and demanding DNA samples.

However, the force said it is looking closely at the circumstances following the claims.

Activist Peter Tatchell said he had received reports that police from Manchester, Northumbria and West Midland had been police visiting homes of men of convicted under the “homophobic gross indecency law” that has since been abolished.

He said they were handed letters requiring them to give DNA samples to be stored on a police data base alongside the DNA of murderers, rapists and child sex abusers.

The DNA sweep is part of Operation Nutmeg - a Government-led operation which requires forces to obtain DNA samples and or finger prints from people convicted of specified qualifying offences where no DNA sample has previously been obtained.

The crimes include including murder, violent crimes and sexual assault.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: "It is completely inaccurate to suggest Northumbria Police is contacting people solely based on their sexuality.

"The force has not sought to take DNA samples from any individuals whose offending is limited to a gross indecency matter that would not be considered to be an offence under current legislation.

"From the outset, Northumbria Police has assessed subjects on an individual basis, taking account of offending history, relevant circumstances and the guidance provided.

"However, in light of recent correspondence we are looking closely at the circumstances regarding these issues."