Police who took DNA samples from men for having been gay have apologised after The Argus exposed the scandal. 

Sussex Police had turned up at the houses of three men who had been convicted of the now repealed offence of gross indecency, and asked for swabs.

The law, originally used to convict homosexuals, was repealed in 2003.

The swabs were taken as part of Operation Nutmeg, which aims to solve historic cases by using DNA samples from rapists, murderers and child sex abusers.

But those solely convicted of gross indecency had also been included in the operation.

Those who refused to co-operate could have been liable for arrest.

Now Sussex Police has backtracked on the approach and apologised to the three men.

A statement said: “Although police have the legal power to request these samples and all three men voluntarily provided them when asked, Sussex Police recognises this was not in the full spirit of the legislation and we apologise for any distress caused.”

The Argus reported how two of the men had been so concerned after the incident they had called the Brighton LGBT Switchboard to ask about their legal rights. 

And James Ledward, editor of Brighton-based G-Scene magazine, had demanded an apology from the force. 

Sussex Police conceded “a more considered approach” should have been taken. Officers will now no longer look to take DNA samples from those convicted of the repealed offence.

A spokesman added: “We encourage anyone with concerns that they may still have a criminal record due to these repealed offences to request its removal.

“We can provide guidance to help with this.

“We will also be contacting the three people who have already provided samples, apologising for any distress caused and offering to assist them to apply for their conviction to be removed from the national database, which will result in the DNA samples we have already taken being destroyed.”

So far more than 130 samples have been taken in Sussex as part of Operation Nutmeg.