POLICE are planning to target people showing predatory behaviour in a bid to prevent rapes from taking place.

In a groundbreaking move, the National Rape Task Force is developing a system where warnings can be issued to anyone displaying "unacceptable" conduct.

They hope that by sending a strong message to people at risk of becoming perpetrators they can change behaviours, protect potential victims and stop a crime taking place.

The move is being welcomed by campaigners tackling violence against women.

Detective Superintendent Louise Raphael, of the force's Rape Task Force, said the system was in the "developmental stage".

She said the task force was inspired to look at different methods of proactive policing in a bid to prevent sex crime.

Ms Raphael said: "Prevention of rape has always been regarded as being really difficult but that doesn't mean there's things that we can't be doing, that we shouldn't be thinking about."

She used the example of a man preying on two intoxicated 16-year-old girls, which they had come across recently. Police established no criminality in the investigation but were concerned about the behaviour of the man.

The man, who was in his early 20s, had approached the girls in a takeaway shop and asked them to come back with him to a hotel.

One of the girls had gone up to a room with the man, while the other girl decided not to.

After police became involved it was established that the girl who had gone to the bedroom had no idea what happened.

Ms Raphael said: "Clearly we launched an investigation as a sexual crime, potentially a rape, and started to make inquiries. That inquiry didn't result in a crime.

"However the conduct of that individual - somebody in their early 20s, approaching two girls clearly under the influence of alcohol - that is concerning.

"If that individual is faced with the exact same circumstances next weekend I'm confident he would do exactly the same thing again.

"Those are the sort of people that we would need to have a word with and say: that conduct is completely unacceptable."

Ms Raphael said any warnings issued would only be given after a process and police would not be "reckless".

For perpetrators who are in custody in connection with a sex crime, police plan to hand them leaflets carrying the warning.

Sandy Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: "It is encouraging to see the police intervening. I can see why some people might view it as controversial but if it is targeting predatory behaviour which might result in serious consequences then the police should be involved."

rachel.loxton@ eveningtimes.co.uk