Abuse of Trust law to be strengthened

The Government will change the law to make it illegal for sports coaches to take advantage of 16 and 17-year-olds in their care – a move long called for by The Christian Institute.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch told Parliament that the Ministry of Justice has agreed changes to the Abuse of Trust law in England and Wales, which has been in place for almost two decades.

The present law makes it an offence for teachers and care workers to have sex with people under the age of 18 in their care, but not coaches.

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Today, Ciarán Kelly, a Deputy Director at the Institute, welcomed the news: “In 2000, we warned that the proposed abuse of trust offence was far too narrow.

“We knew that leaving out sports coaches would put vulnerable teenagers at risk from people with power over them.

“Tragically, the abuse scandal which has engulfed football confirmed our worst fears.

“We are glad that the Government has now committed to widening the offence. The law can be strengthened still further. But this is a positive step towards protecting young people from all forms of sexual exploitation.”

Preying on teens

The move was also welcomed by Anne Tiivas, head of the NSPCC’s child protection in sport unit.

She said: “We know that some sports coaches spend years grooming young people and then, as soon as their 16th birthday comes around, they target them for sex.

“Ever since the football abuse scandal broke we have been strongly urging government to close this loophole that leaves children in sports and other out-of-school clubs vulnerable to adults who want to prey on them.”

The Scottish Government has also indicated that it might review current legislation and wrote to sporting authorities earlier this year encouraging them to “reflect on their current policies and practices on child protection”.