Controversial notices issued to potential child sex offenders have been issued on the Isle of Wight.
Hampshire Constabulary have handed out four “disruption notices” or C5 notices since 2016 on the Island.
It is a new tactic used when police do not believe they have sufficient evidence to prosecute, but it has prompted a national and local backlash.
A Freedom of Information request was used to obtain confirmation that the notices had been handed out on the Island, the force previously said it could not provide information that was location specific.
The force has said this is not a cost cutting measure and is backed up by a leading criminologist and a child sex abuse prevention charity. But it has prompted a backlash both nationally and on the Island.
Former head of the Island’s CID and council leader Dave Stewart said he believed the notices would have been handed out on the Island before this information was revealed.
Lynn Hammond, spokesperson for IW Parents Action Group, which seeks to end child abuse, said: “What if these men are innocent? You could be targeting innocent men. They should be going to court, the evidence should be found.
“I think where child sex offences are concerned police have to make time.”
And Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird, the national lead for child sexual abuse cases – and a former barrister – said she was worried the scheme “won’t protect a soul”.
She added: “I don’t know of anything like this [C5 leaflet] at all. There is nothing like the prospect of a conviction with this.
“Cuts in the budget and a vastly increased demand on policing are likely to have played a part in its use.”
A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary said: “On October 6, 2016, Hampshire Constabulary introduced a new process for changing potential perpetrator behaviour in CSE [Child Sexual Exploitation] cases which do not result a person being charged.
“Working with a leading criminologist Dr Graham Hill and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a disruption notice known as C5 Notice has been developed.
“The appropriately named C5 Notice focuses on five areas of concerning behaviour: communication, conduct, control, consent and consequences.
“The notice makes clear the law around sexual offending and what types of behaviour and acts are unacceptable.”
Chair of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Police and Crime Panel, Cllr Stewart, said: “It always used to be said that there is abuse on the Island and I think there probably is.
“While I am not aware personally of it, we have had serious child sex abuse cases on the Island in years gone by and if the Hampshire Constabulary have a policy where they issue these notices where evidence has fallen short, then anything that keeps people safe must be good.”