A CONTROVERSIAL police sting that caught hundreds of men having sex in public loos is now the subject of an investigation.

Covert Operation Winchester, which used hidden cameras to detect whether men were engaging in sexual activity were installed in the gentlemen's toilets at Harrison Drive, New Brighton.

More than 120 men were filmed carrying out sexual acts in the urinal area during the three-month blitz.

Thirty-two people were cautioned and six were charged after they were identified by surveillance equipment.

But the operation has been criticised by the gay community who claim that officers used "strong arm tactics."

And now elements of the sting will be scrutinised to determine whether policy and procedure were followed.

This month, men have been brought before the courts charged with offences under the Sexual Offences Act.

They were identified after two tiny cameras were placed inside the lavatories at head and waist height and evidence was recorded on DVD.

Cameras were also set up outside to detect car registration numbers.

On Monday, married grandfather Roger John Galvin, from Thomas Lane, Liverpool, appeared at Wirral Magistrates Court charged with nine counts of sexual activity.

The 65-year-old pleaded guilty to all offences and will reappear on December 21 while reports are prepared.

Defending Galvin, solicitor Chris Williams said: "This is a unique situation.

"Mr Galvin is currently in hospital seeking help for psychiatric problems and his behaviour is a result of a traumatic breakdown.

Obsession "He can't explain why he did this only that it became an obsession."

And on Friday, David Howson from Westmoreland Road, New Brighton, pleaded guilty to four offences.

The 44-year-old had been observed on 11 occasions before he was arrested for the crimes last month.

Prosecutor Maria Corr told the court that Howson had entered the toilets, which were open to the public, and engaged in a number of sexual acts with other men.

Howson had previous convictions for similar offences in 1986 and 1991.

District judge Nick Saunders sentenced him to a supervised community order for 12 months.

The toilets came under surveillance after complaints from the public that men were meeting for anonymous gay sex.

Merseyside Police defended the operation.

A spokesman said: "The integrity of the operation is not under question but the consultation period with local groups could have been better."

Cllr Adrian Jones, Wirral's spokesman on the Merseyside Police Authority said: "All decent people will be grateful that the abuse of a public lavatory, which should be safe for children and adults to use without stumbling into this sort of activity, has been stopped.

"I hope nobody will try to muddy the water by conflating policing methods with the activities that were going on.

"It would be no different if men and women were having heterosexual activity in a public place."

He added: "I don't think many Wirral people will have anything but contempt for those who abuse public conveniences for sex, whatever their orientation."