SUSSEX Police has apologised and scrapped its new rape prevention posters following a wave of criticism.

Last week the force released posters encouraging friends to stay together on nights out with the slogan: “Which one of your mates is most vulnerable on a night out? Many sexual assaults could be prevented”.

The campaign caused controversy, with many accusing the force of “victim blaming”. A petition calling for the campaign to be withdrawn was signed by nearly 1,000 people.

After a barrage of outrage, the force yesterday apologised and agreed to pull the posters from the campaign.

Detective Superintendent Paul Furnell, head of public protection, said: “The way we have gone about this campaign has caused some concern. This was not the intention of our message and for that I apologise.

“We have listened to our partners and we have reached the decision to foreshorten this particular part of the campaign.

“The posters were not intended in any way to blame victims. I understand the concerns that have been raised about the poster and they will be withdrawn. I would like to stress that the posters were well intentioned with the sole aim of preventing people becoming victims of crime.”

June Eric-Udorie, 16, who started the petition on website on Wednesday, said she was pleased the police had reacted to the controversy.

The Brighton College Pupil said: “The police contacted me a few minutes before they announced they were withdrawing the posters. I was really shocked at how quickly they’ve acted, I’m really pleased.

“They [Sussex Police] have done a lot to tackle the problem of sexual violence, they should be recognised for that, but this is all a stepping stone to a world where we have equality for women, who aren’t told they have to modify their behaviour on nights out to avoid sexual violence.”

James Rowlands, strategic commissioner for domestic and sexual violence for Brighton and Hove City Council and East Sussex County Council, said he welcomed Sussex Police’s decision to withdraw the posters.

He added: “I look forward to working with them in the future as we, and our partners in Sussex, have a shared commitment to supporting victims, raising awareness about consent and most importantly holding to account those who commit rape or sexual assault.”