Gay rights campaigners in Northern Ireland say they know of at least one man who has killed himself after being arrested for cruising.
PA Mag Lochlainn, a well-known activist, told The Mirror: “The danger is people who haven’t made their sexuality public find themselves outed.
“The damage it can do is immense. We know one man who has taken his own life after an arrest.”
The man is believed to have been at a public toilet in Lisburn, Co Down, when the police raided it. Several people were arrested.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has reported a sharp rise in complaints about men using public areas for sex and have vowed to crack down on the cruisers.
The police said they had raided over 50 cruising and cottaging ‘venues’ this year alone.
They also named two popular parkland areas in Belfast, Giants Ring and Shaw’ Bridge, as being a particular problem, with “numerous and continuous calls about indecent behaviour and criminal activity of a sexual nature.”
Since the end of the Troubles, the Northern Irish capital has worked hard to shed its violent image and promote itself as a tourist destination.
Politicians are concerned that Belfast is now getting a reputation as a centre for illegal outdoor sex.
Belfast Lord Mayor Pat McCarthy told Daily Ireland: “Shaws Bridge and the Giant’s Ring are beauty spots visited by families and people who walk their dogs.
“Members of the public should be entitled to visit these places without being subjected to people having a carry on.”
Both areas have featured on gay cruising websites, and consequently there have been many homophobic attacks on men looking for sex.