A Government Minister has confirmed it intends to finally review a loophole allowing sports coaches to take advantage of 16 and 17-year-olds.
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.
The Christian Institute first warned of the legal loophole in 2000. The Government committed to change the law in late 2017.
In November 2017 then Sports Minister Tracey Crouch told Parliament that the Ministry of Justice agreed changes were needed to the Abuse of Trust law in England and Wales, but in 2018 the Government backtracked its decision.
This month, the Government has again reversed its decision, agreeing to a review.
Junior Justice Minister Lucy Frazer wrote to the NSPCC to confirm the Government’s intention to “review how the law is working to tackle abuse of power in sexual relationships”.
Ciarán Kelly, a Deputy Director at The Christian Institute, welcomed the news, saying: “In 2000, we warned that the proposed Abuse of Trust offence was far too narrow.”
He added: “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.
“The Government reneged on its 2017 commitment to a review.
“If they do keep this new promise it will be a positive step towards protecting young people from all forms of sexual exploitation.”
Paralympic legend Baroness Grey-Thompson, said: “In sport we have to look at whether the adult is in a position of power over that child, such as team selection. If so, there needs to be legislation in place to provide protection.”
The NSPCC’s CEO Peter Wanless called the latest announcements “an encouraging, if overdue step in the right direction”.
The NCPCC has been running a ‘Close the Loophole’ campaign to change the law, which has received support of 30 cross-party MPs.
Ministers have been shown the growing body of complaints against adults who are currently not covered by the Abuse of Trust law.
Wanless said: “We hope that the Ministry of Justice sees fit to close this loophole and protect more children.”