Government U-turn on pledge to protect young people in sport

Children at risk as plan to extend position of trust laws to coaches is dropped

keep children safe in sport

The Government is backtracking on plans to extend Abuse of position of trust law to cover sports coaches, despite a 51% increase in the number of recorded offences since 20121.

It’s currently illegal for some groups of professionals, like teachers, care workers and youth justice staff, to be involved in sexual activity with a 16 or 17-year-old child under their supervision2.

Our Trust to Lead campaign has been calling for this to be extended to other adults working with children, including sports coaches.

There were a total of 1,406 offences of Abuse of a position of trust recorded by police forces in England and Wales and the British Transport police between 2012/13 and 2017/183.


Our campaign

Following our Trust to Lead campaign, sports minister Tracey Crouch announced in November last year that the then Department for Culture Media and Sport and the Ministry of Justice had agreed that Abuse of Position of Trust legislation would be extended to sports coaches.

But the Ministry of Justice has written to the NSPCC making it clear that the Government believes laws on the age of consent and on non-consensual sexual activity already provide adequate protection for 16 and 17-year-olds who are preyed upon by adults who supervise them.

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Peter Wanless on government backtrack position of trust

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 mini bus, or in the changing rooms, as opposed to in the classroom. Yet bizarrely the law draws such a distinction.

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

Television presenter and campaigner Charlie Webster said:
“I, along with the NSPCC, have repeatedly highlighted and investigated this loophole for several years now. I was told after numerous meetings where I brought its danger to light that we had been successful in amending the law. 

“It scares me that we are still letting our most vulnerable down as they slip through the net.”

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More information and advice

Sexual abuse

A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn't have to be physical contact, and it can happen online.
Read more about sexual abuse

Grooming

Children and young people can be groomed online or in the real world, by a stranger or by someone they know - a family member, friend or professional. 
Read more about grooming

New helpline for footballers who’ve experienced sexual abuse

We launch a new support line following ex-football players Andy Woodward, Steve Walters and Paul Stewart speaking out about abuse
Read more

References

  1. In 2012/13 there were a total of 192 offences of Abuse of a position of trust recorded by police forces in England and Wales and the British Transport police. By 2017/18 the total was 290.
    Source: Home Office (2018) Police recorded crime and outcomes open data tables.

  2. Sexual activity involving children under 16 is illegal in the UK. When the adult is in a ‘position of trust’, sexual activity and relationships involving a child under 18 is also illegal. Currently, Abuse of position of trust law only applies to adults in certain professions, such as teaching or care. But there are adults working closely with children, such as sports coaches, who aren't covered by this law.
    Source: Sexual Offences Act 2003