Government’s ‘dangerous’ U-turn over sports coaches and sex with teenage players

PUBLISHED: 07:01 28 August 2018 | UPDATED: 07:11 28 August 2018

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless is horrified at the Government's u-turn.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless is horrified at the Government's u-turn.

Archant

A child abuse charity has condemned the government’s “dangerous” decision to backtrack on its pledge to make sexual relationships between sports coaches and 16- and 17-year-olds in their care illegal.

The age of consent in the UK is 16, but that is extended to 18 if a person holds a position of trust.

The law currently covers teachers, hospital workers and carers, but not sports coaches.

In Hertfordshire, 22 abuse-of-position-of-trust offences have been recorded since 2012.

There have been 1,406 such offences recorded across England and Wales since 2012 – an increase of 51 per cent over that period.

There have been calls for the law to be extended since details emerged of historic child sex abuse in football, and in November Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said the government had agreed to change the law to include sports coaches.

But child abuse charity the NSPCC says the loophole in the law now looks set to remain after the Ministry of Justice wrote to the charity saying it feels the current laws are adequate.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “This change in direction is as disappointing as it is dangerous.

“It shows a lack of understanding of the nature of grooming whereby young people might feel that they are in a loving relationship, when in fact an adult with considerable power and influence over them is abusing their position of trust for sexual gratification.

“That position of power is not diminished if it exists on the sports pitch, in the minibus, or in the changing rooms, as opposed to in the classroom, yet bizarrely the law draws such a distinction.”

Mr Wanless added: “More than 1,400 of these crimes have been recorded in recent years, but this could be just the tip of the iceberg given the plethora of roles not covered.

“How many more hundreds of children will be abused before the government delivers on its promise made in the House of Commons?”

The NSPCC is calling for the government to fulfil its promise to extend position of trust laws to sports coaches.

The charity will continue to campaign for laws on positions of trust to be extended to cover all adults who work regularly with children.

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