A legal ‘loophole’ allowing sports coaches to take advantage of teenagers in their care must be closed, the NSPCC has said.
It is currently illegal for professionals such as teachers and social workers to have sex with 16 and 17-year-olds, under the Abuse of Trust law.
But the law does not extend to sports coaches and other youth workers, who fall outside the legal definition of a “position of trust”.
Before it was introduced, The Christian Institute argued that the reach of the Abuse of Trust law did not go far enough.
In 2000, the Institute warned that: “The Government’s new ‘abuse of trust’ offence is so narrow that even the Government estimate there will be only 10-15 prosecutions a year.”
The inadequacy of the law has been brought to light again following recent allegations of abuse in football.
The NSPCC said it has received more than 1,700 calls to a hotline it set up with the Football Association.
Calling for the Abuse of Trust law to include sports coaches, Chief Executive of the group Peter Wanless said it was “remarkable” they weren’t already included, “given the significant amount of responsibility, influence and authority” they have.
He told the BBC a change to the law was vital to “bolster protection for teenagers at risk of grooming once they pass the age of consent”.
The NSPCC also wants background checks to be tightened, so that clubs can tell if coaches have a criminal record, or are already banned from working with children.
The Government’s Abuse of Trust law was devised to offer more protection to vulnerable young people, following several abuse scandals.
It made it a criminal offence for a person aged 18 or over to engage in any sexual activity with a person under 18 if he is in a position of trust in relation to that person.
A person in a position of trust is narrowly defined as someone who is regularly involved in caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of persons who are:
– In any form of detention;
– Accommodated by a local authority;
– Resident in an institution providing health or social care;
– Receiving full-time education in an institution.
This limits the scope of the law to prisons, social care, healthcare services and schools.
A spokesman for The Christian Institute said: “The Government’s Abuse of Trust law may have been introduced with good intentions. But it is long past time it was extended to other adults in a position of trust.”