Pervert who groomed 13-year-old girl as his 'daughter' previously handed warning leaflet by police

Chief reporter BEN FISHWICK looks at a controversial attempt to keep children safe from sexual predators.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 4:00 pm
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 4:52 pm

Warning leaflets handed to suspected child sex offender were given to a pervert branded ‘every parent’s worst nightmare’ months before he groomed a teenage girl and forced her to call him ‘dad’.

Controversial C5 notices are handed to suspects by Hampshire police when an concern about inappropriate sexual behaviour is raised but there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.

The two-sided leaflets warn the person and urge them to change their behaviour, outlining they may be committing a criminal offence. One line said: ‘Think about who you are communicating with and the content of your conversation. Keep it respectful and safe.’

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C5 orders have come under scrutiny

Previously victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC said the notices, which have no statutory backing, ‘won’t protect a soul’.

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Police issue 54 notices warning potential child sex offenders to change their wa...

The use of the notices by police started in November 2016. A year later on November 12, 2017, one was issued to Kieran Mellish, 22, of Hillsley Road, Paulsgrove.

Portsmouth Crown Court recently heard he was handed the notice for ‘having inappropriate sexual contact’.

Hampshire police C5 notice

Just eight months later he was sending sexually explicit images and messages to a 13-year-old girl online he referred to as ‘daughter’ and who he said should call him ‘dad’.

When he was sentenced, judge Timothy Mousley QC said: ‘To put it shortly, what you did was every parents’ worst nightmare, and one can’t help wondering what would have happened if (the girl’s) father had not happened to chance upon her phone, and how long your abuse of her would have continued.’

Mellish was only caught as he had insisted the girl, who cannot be named, should change his name on her phone to ‘dad’ as he had a ‘daddy kink’.

When he sent a message saying ‘love you’ her unsuspecting father saw the message alert from ‘dad’ and immediately became suspicious.

Hampshire police C5 notice

Messages revealed on the girl telling Mellish her age he said: ‘I do get a bit sexual sometimes, don’t worry I won’t because of your age.’

But he added: ‘You don’t mind if I started talking dirty to you?’

Mellish, who admitted sexual communication with a child and three charges of causing a child to watch sexual activity, also sent her three recordings of him carrying out a lewd act but partially obscured.

But Dame Vera told The News: ‘I have reservations about the use of C5 notices and this case illustrates why.

‘A C5 notice has no statutory power, for example, placing restrictions on the suspected perpetrator, and therefore, they offer no protection for victims.

‘Invariably, the police will not have the resource to monitor those served with a C5 notice.

‘Although local police forces may be able to record the service of the notice on their own systems, if the recipient crosses a police boundary the C5 notice will not be recorded on the systems of neighbouring police forces and those forces will not be aware of the incidents which resulted in the notice being served.

‘Possibly the only practical effect of serving a C5 notice is that it confirms to the suspect that the police have no grounds for charging them.

‘Worse still, serving a C5 notice might be seen by police officers as an easy option, instead of investigating the suspect further to see if there is evidence that warrants a prosecution.’

Children’s charity the NSPCC also has concerns about C5 notices. A spokeswoman said: ‘It is unclear how warning notices could help to prevent abuse from escalating. There are questions about how these notices will work in practice and how they will be enforced.

‘It is also unclear how forces will manage the individual receiving the notice and how their behaviour would continue to be monitored.’

Mellish was handed a two-year term suspended for two years, with sex offenders’ treatment programme and 25 days’ rehabilitation activities. He must sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years and a sexual harm prevention order restricts his contact with children.

This means he will now be monitored by specialist police from Hampshire’s offender management team. The SHPO means officers can force him to hand over his phone - powers not granted under the C5 notice.

Lawyers have raised concerns the warning notice is ‘criminalisation without due process’. They can show up in an enhanced DBS check. Children can be issued with them by police, and there is no way to appeal.

Dame Vera added: ‘A recipient could certainly argue that it’s an infringement of civil liberty to serve such a notice and have it accepted, as if the recipient agreed that they deserved one, without a lawyer present, especially if the police tried to use it in evidence in any subsequent prosecution.’

Police are able to apply for sexual risk orders against people. If granted by the courts they can force people posing a risk to inform officers if they plan to have sex.

A Hampshire police spokesman said: ‘C5 notices are one of the tools we have at our disposal to prevent and deter this type of behaviour. The notice makes clear the law around sexual offending and what types of behaviour are acceptable.

‘The notice is only served to those who, following a thorough investigation, have been released with no further action.

‘These notices are then taken into account and assist us and the courts in taking action if a new matter is reported.’

PERVERT Kiearn Mellish was 20 when he sought sexual gratification from a 13-year-old girl who contacted him on social media over a shared interest in music.

Prosecutor Daniel Sawyer said there had been ‘some discussion of meeting’ but ‘that was never as far as a plan’. There is a separate offence of attempting to meet a child for sex.

Mr Sawyer said the names were changed on the pair’s phones. ‘On her phone he would appear as daddy and on his phone she would appear as daughter,’ he said.

‘On the second or third day of the conversation (he had) a daddy kink and a sex sibling kink.

‘Immediately following that he then changed her name, saying “how’s that for our nicknames”.

But it was Mellish’s sexual perversion that led to his downfall when the girl’s father saw a ‘I love you’ message from ‘dad’ and asked her what was going on. She told him, and her parents then went to the police.

Simon Moger, for Mellish, said his client had some learning difficulties and is a ‘rather isolated individual and in some respects a rather social inadequate’.

Mr Moger added: ‘I don’t think it’s unfair to say probably his interest in sexual matters probably out-stepped his level of maturity.’

Judge Mousley said his actions were ‘appalling’ and that he told the girl it should be a ‘secret’ between them. He added: ‘She was vulnerable and you took advantage of her.’

He said: ‘Your purpose was to persuade her to have sexual intercourse with you.’

But he ruled there was a realistic prospect of rehabilitation and suspended the jail term, adding the prison sentence ‘hanging over your head’ would have a ‘deterrent effect’.

[page one of leaflet] POLICE C5 NOTICE

Your sexual behaviour has come to the attention of Hampshire Constabulary. We believe you may have been involved in abusive sexual behaviour towards children. We are serving you this notice so you have the opportunity to think about your behaviour and to change it.

THE LAW IS CLEAR: CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IS ILLEGAL - WHATEVER FORM IT TAKES

Do you know:

it is against the law for anyone to have sex with someone under the age of 16?

it is against the law to have sex with someone under the age of 18 if you are in a position of trust? (eg teacher or carer)

it is against the law to view, send or share sexual images of anyone aged under 18?

it is against the law to transport someone under the age of 18, within the UK or abroad, for the purpose of sexual abuse?

If you have concerns about your sexual thoughts or behaviour towards children, you should call the Stop it Now! Helpline: 0808 1000 900.

Calls made to the Stop it Now! Helpline are confidential and anonymous. Trained operators will give you the advice and information you need to help you change your behaviour.

[page 2 of leaflet] THINGS YOU NEED TO THINK ABOUT

Communication - communicating with someone under the age of 18 about sex - either in person, on the telephone, or via technology and/or social media - may mean you are committing a sexual offence.

Think about who you are communicating with and the content of your conversation. Keep it respectful and safe.

Conduct - sex with anyone under the age of 16 is illegal. Don’t take advantage of someone because of their age or vulnerability.

Think about your sexual behaviour. Enjoy sex that is based on mutual respect and understanding.

Control - it is a criminal offence to try to control someone under 18 by using violence, intimidation, persuasion or aggression so that you or someone else can engage in sexual activity with them.

Think about your relationships. Make informed choices about your sexual behaviour and let others do the same.

Consent - If you engage in sexual activity with someone who has not freely consented, you are committing a sexual offence.

Remember: you have a responsibility to check that the other person consents to sex. Consent cannot be freely given if the person is under the influence of drink or drugs, in fear or placed under pressure. Talk about consent with your sexual partner.

Consequences - Hampshire police will be monitoring your behaviour in the future. If you are convicted of a sexual offence at a later date, your life will change. You may go to prison and you will be placed on the Sex Offenders Register. This means there may be controls placed on where you live and who you live with, the type of work you can do, your travel and your use of technology.