New law to protect teenagers from coaches who abuse their position of trust

  • The Government is to close a “loophole” to prevent sports coaches from having sexual relationships with 16- and 17-year-olds in their care.

    The measures are part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, presented in Parliament yesterday (9 March), and brings sports coaches and religious leaders in line with other occupations, such as teachers and doctors.

    The new legislation prevents adults in “positions of trust” from engaging in sexual relationships with young people under the age of 18 in their care.

    “The move follows an extensive review which raised concerns that predators could exploit the particular influence these roles can often have in a young person’s life – making them vulnerable to abuse,” said a statement from the Ministry of Justice.

    The NSPCC has been campaigning to extend the law since 2017. It’s #CloseTheLoophole campaign included a 4,420-strong petition and support from national sporting bodies, Baroness Grey-Thompson, MPs Tracey Crouch and Sarah Champion, among others.

    The Ministry of Justice held an internal review into the law in 2019, with promises of the “next steps by the end of May” 2020.

    Justice minister Alex Chalk indicated in Parliament last week (3 March) that these new laws were forthcoming; the full announcement landed on Tuesday (9 March).

    Ms Crouch said this is “welcome news” but “we should never forget it was the bravery of others speaking out about abuse they suffered that led to this”.

    She added that it was their stories and the need to close the loophole for future athletes that inspired her, Ms Champion and Baroness Grey-Thompson to keep fighting alongside the NSPCC.

    NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said the charity is delighted that “after relentless campaigning” the Government has “finally listened to our calls and agreed to close this legal loophole”.

    “This landmark step sends a clear message that children and young people can return to the extra-curricular activities they love without being at risk of grooming by the very adults they should look to for support and guidance,” he added.

    “Thank you to everyone who stood up for children and threw their weight behind our campaign. With children set to return to activities in spring and summer, we will be looking at the details behind this announcement very closely.”

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