MAGISTRATES threw out a bid by Wiltshire Police to double the length of a sexual risk order banning a Swindon man from having contact with under18s - despite him never having been convicted of a sex offence.

Chairman of the bench, Peter Wells, criticised the beefed-up 10-year order police hoped to bring against Patrick Cunnington, 22, as unworkable. The force had tried to prove Cunnington had targeted boys and taken advantage of vulnerable young women.

Mr Wells told Lawrence Wilcox, counsel for Wiltshire Police: “We don’t find the evidence particularly compelling.”

He added: “I don’t think it’s right to be extending the order for a further five years at this point, given it’s still got a further three-and-a-half-years to go.”

The sexual risk order was originally made in late 2017. But this week, the force was back in court in an effort to get the terms of the order extended.

Officers hoped to ban Cunnington from having unsupervised contact with any child under-18, rather than under-16 as the order was originally drafted. They also hoped to restrict his contact with adults deemed to be vulnerable as a result of learning difficulties or mental health problems.

Mr Wilcox, for Wiltshire Police, claimed Cunnington was deliberately targeting vulnerable boys and young women.

Phone evidence showed he was part of a Facebook group chat, with two other members of that group deemed by experts to be vulnerable, including a 21-year-old woman assessed by social services as being at risk of sexual exploitation.

Cunnington was said to have struck up a relationship with another girl with learning difficulties, 21, also previously deemed to be at risk of sexual exploitation. She had lost the couple’s unborn child, magistrates heard.

A fourth man told the authorities Cunnington had struck up a friendship with him, occasionally borrowing his laptop – a breach of the sexual risk order. “I would suggest it’s no coincidence that he’s a particularly vulnerable man,” Mr Wilcox said. Probation officers deemed him a high risk of offending.

Cunnington, currently a serving prisoner but who has never appeared before the courts charged with a sexual offence, has a long history of breaching the sexual risk order first made in 2017. In March, he was jailed for 10 months at Swindon Crown Court for breaching the order after being found in regular contact with two young boys and in possession of four electronic devices, whichhe was not allowed.

But Andrew Watts-Jones, for Cunnington, told JPs the issue of the breaches was separate to the extension to the order sought by police.

The solicitor dismissed the order as a nonsense and the two evidence statements from a staff member at Wiltshire Police and a probation officer as little more than tittle-tattle and supposition.

It would be near impossible for his client to comply by the requirements asked for by the police, he argued, as most learning disabilities and mental health problems were “invisible”.

“This order should fall just on the grounds it’s a bad order. It’s and unenforceable and an un-understandable order,” he said.