A Hampshire police presentation discovered by this site, raises concerns about the strategy used by the force when serving child sexual exploitation leaflets to suspected abusers. Tactics include the use of threatening language inside the form, bullying suspects into signing the leaflet, and referring to suspects as perpetrators despite a lack of evidence to bring charges.
The leaflet, called a C5 notice, is being handed out in a bid to deter people from committing child sexual exploitation offences. The notices can be handed out where an investigation into a suspect has taken place but there is not enough evidence to charge them. Hampshire police has served C5 notices on 54 people since the force introduced the scheme in 2016, including a woman who had teenage boys over to her house. It’s not clear from reports whether there was any suspicious activity taking place at the woman’s home.
The original presentation Hampshire Police used to launch the scheme, offers information about how C5 notices should be used, regional details about victim and perpetrator profiles, police disruption tactics, and local CSE case studies. A website launched at the same time to raise awareness around CSE, called Alice’s Diary, compares children who have been affected by sexual abuse, to Alice in Wonderland.
The presentation was given by Chief Inspector Debra Masson in October, 2016 and refers to both proven offenders, and individuals eligible for C5 notices as ‘perpetrators’, a term usually only used for a person who has already been found guilty of a crime. As C5 notices are given to individuals who have not been charged with any offence, the term raises serious questions about the force’s understanding of due process. The slides also refer to suspected victims, just as victims, which gives the impression that all sexual exploitation allegations lodged with the police are already proven.
Equally concerning are the contents of Hampshire police force’s C5 notice, which includes a statement by the police that they will be monitoring the suspect – despite an investigation having already taken place which has not led to any charges – for an indefinite period of time. A form at the bottom of the notice also requires the recipient to sign a statement of understanding, which could be viewed as deeply unethical, given that no charges have been brought. There is also no clause in the C5 informing the suspect that he or she is not under any obligation to sign the notice.
Interestingly, the notice itself does not use the term perpetrator.
The leaflets have generated conflicting views amongst politicians, the police and lawyers. Labour MP Sarah Champion, who is also the co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Preventing Sexual Violence, believes the leaflets will act as a deterrent. Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird thinks the leaflets will have no effect on reducing sexual abuse, and Aine Kervick, a criminal defence lawyer at Kingsley Napley, believes the notice could target innocent people and affect their chances of employment as the C5 could show up in an enhanced DBS check. Hampshire Police denies that the scheme is a cost-cutting measure.
These are all important points, however the most significant issues here are the language used inside the C5 and the less than careful wording within the presentation, all of which are clear breaches of due process, and show a complete lack of respect for the legal rights of those targeted by these forms.