New guidelines for police officers on how to deal with public sex have recommended they avoid “knee jerk” reactions to people cottaging, dogging and cruising.

At present it is not illegal to have sex in a public place unless someone else sees the act and complains to police.

The new draft guidelines will be considered by Association of Chief Police Officers.

They were drawn up by Deputy Chief Constable Michael Cunningham, of Lancashire Police, ACPO lead on LGBT issues.

He claimed the “human rights of those people who frequent open spaces for the purposes of having sexual relationships with other like-minded people” should be considered.

A small minority of gay men use parks or open spaces, known as cruising grounds, or public toilets, known as cottages, to look for sex.

These venues are also used by bisexual or “straight” men looking for gay encounters.

Some heterosexuals now ape that with dogging, a similar practice whereby single men and couples gather in a public place such as a car park either to watch or participate.

Mr Cunningham said that police actions at toilets and cruising grounds had alienated gay men.

“Acts of suicide and self-harm by persons who may have been arrested, charged or come into contact with the police in such a situation have happened in various parts of the country,” he said.

“It is not for the police to take the role of moral arbiter, the police role is to ensure that any complaints are dealt with fairly and professionally and that where individuals are engaged in lawful activity they may do so safely.

“The impact of enforcement can also be severe and rarely resolves the community problems associated with the existence of a public sex environment.

“This impact can be extreme and can include humiliation, breakdown of relationships and the ‘outing’ of men living in an opposite sex relationship being perceived as ‘gay.’”

Mr Cunningham said police should go online and study sex websites to monitor people meeting up for sex.

He also recommended police take action such as placing CCTV or lights at areas where people meet for sex, as opposed to arrests.

His 21-page report, titled Guidance on Policing Public Sex Environments, was leaked to Police Review.

An ACPO spokesperson said: “This document has been put forward as a developing proposal. It is not complete and has not been adopted as ACPO guidance.”

Tory Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve was unimpressed.

“This is unacceptable,” he said.

“The law is the law and there should be no exceptions.”