HAMPSHIRE police handed out more than 100 cautions for rape and other serious sexual offences in the past five years, the Hampshire Chronicle can reveal.

The crimes included incest and sex with children under the age of 13.

Figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request reveal that since 2014 police have cautioned four people for rape and another six for serious sexual assaults including five counts of sexual assault involving victims under the age of 16.

Similar requests for information made in 2013 also reveal that from 2011-2012 Hampshire constabulary handed out 18 cautions for sexual assaults against women.

One Hampshire MP was so surprised and concerned by the statistics she has pledged to raise the issue with the county’s chief constable Olivia Pinkney.

A spokeswoman for Rape Crisis England and Wales, a charity which offers specialist services for women and girls who have been assaulted, said: “The use of cautions for sexual offences has been a cause for concern for some time.

“In the vast majority of cases where the offender is an adult, they seem wholly inappropriate, largely because they don’t in any way reflect the seriousness of the crime or the long-lasting and often devastating impacts that sexual violence has on lives.”

Conservative MP for Eastleigh Mims Davies said: “A caution, in my belief, is designed for use where suitable in cases of minor incidents and complaints and I would like to think that the police would be very careful in their use for the most serious matters.

“I am surprised and concerned to hear that for this type of allegation the police may deem a caution suitable for use, as it does not seem to be right to me to respond to such concerning crimes where these offences have such long term impact on the victims.

“I will be raising this matter with the chief constable."

Conservative Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, a former parliamentary under secretary of state for women, equalities and early years, told the Hampshire Chronicle that victims of sexual violence must have confidence in the legal system and receive the support they need every step of the way.

She added: “I'm sure that Hampshire Constabulary recognises this, and I'm pleased they are working closely with partner organisations such as victim support to continually improve the way that allegations of sexual assault are handled.”

In response to the findings Hampshire Constabulary said that they took all allegations of sexual offences seriously and sought to provide a compassionate and professional response to victims and conduct a thorough investigation.

A spokesman added: “Investigations into these offences are among the most complex that our officers carry out and cautioning offenders is just one example of formal action open to the police in these cases.

"Several factors will be considered when deciding whether a caution is an appropriate outcome, including the specifics of each offence, the wishes of the victim, and whether they support a prosecution through the courts.”