Concerns have been raised after it was revealed Derbyshire police has handed out cautions for serious crimes including rape and other sex offences.
The shock statistics were released following a Freedom of Information request by Derbyshire Times to Derbyshire Constabulary.
Figures show the force has handed out three cautions for rape and 78 for other sexual offences in the last three years.
Derbyshire police has said all three rape offences involved young people under the age of consent but who were ‘willing participants in a sexual act’.
Cautions can be given to anyone aged ten or over but the offence must be admitted and a person must agree to be cautioned.
A spokesman for Rape Crisis England & Wales said: “It’s a concern that cautions continue to be given for sexual offences, and that there’s inconsistency between police forces as to how cautions are used.
“Rape Crisis would welcome a review of cautions to look at the situation in more detail, and in particular on the age of the offender when cautions are given, which may have a bearing on the case.
“In most cases involving adult offenders, cautions are wholly inappropriate.
“Cautions do not reflect the gravity of rape or sexual abuse or assault or the long-term impact of sexual violence on its survivors.”
The FOI request asked for the total number of police cautions issued by the force from 2014 to 2016.
The results showed cautions have been given for crimes such as using violence causing injury, criminal damage, possession of drugs, trafficking in drugs and weapon offences.
The force handed out 1,984 cautions in 2014, 1,731 in 2015 and 810 so far this year.
A spokesperson for SV2, a charity based in Derbyshire which helps to support victims of sexual violence, said: “In most circumstances SV2 would not condone the issuing of a caution for an offence of rape, but recognises that each individual circumstance must be taken into consideration in terms of deciding the most appropriate course of action.
“In the case of the three cautions issued, one each in 2014, 2015 and 2016, SV2 understand that these were all sexual acts between consenting young people, but who were under the age of consent. In such circumstances it is not necessarily in either the public interest or the interest of the young people concerned to take forward a prosecution for rape.”
Detective Chief Inspector, Malc Bibbings, of Derbyshire Constabulary, said: “Any decision to issue a caution in relation to a sexual offence is made by an officer of at least Detective Inspector rank and is agreed by either the Crown Prosecution Service or the Youth Justice Panel.
“The Crown Prosecution Service can also advise the force that a caution is the appropriate sanction to apply.
“All three offences mentioned in these statistics involved young people under the age of consent but who were willing participants in a sexual act.
“The decision to caution was taken in the best interests of all those involved.”