Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid has called for the abuse of trust law to be tightened to protect vulnerable teens from sexual abuse.
Currently, the law forbids adults in certain positions of authority, such as teachers, social workers and police officers, from engaging in sexual conduct with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care, but this does not apply to sports coaches, religious leaders, music teachers or driving instructors.
Mr Javid has now joined the growing number of people speaking out in favour of changing the law. The Christian Institute has been campaigning on the issue for more than 20 years.
Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Mr Javid said he is “appalled by the twisted individuals who dare to sexually abuse vulnerable children”.
He said “vile abusers” need to feel “the full force of the law” but pointed out that they are “both determined and clever – if there’s a loophole that allows them to satisfy their disgusting urges at the expense of our kids, they will find it”.
He described a scenario of a swimming coach who grooms a young girl from the age of 14 and has sex with her soon after she turns 16.
“Is this acceptable? For an adult man entrusted with the safety of someone’s child to single her out, groom her and start engaging in sexual activity with her as soon as she turns 16? Well, it might be morally repugnant, but it’s currently legal.”
‘Turns my stomach’
The former Home Secretary continued: “A teacher who acted in this way would rightly be arrested, as would a care worker. But a loophole in the law means that for some professions, these behaviours are not criminal.
“Parents send their children to religious groups, sports clubs and even for driving lessons after school, trusting that the adults they’ve delegated their authority to will protect and look after them.
“Those who exploit that trust are currently able to do so without legal consequences. This loophole turns my stomach, and simply has to change.”
He added: “If this behaviour is unacceptable for teachers, it is unacceptable from any professional in a position of power who is given responsibility for our kids. I urge the government: change the law, so that children of all ages are protected from predatory adults.”
Time for action
Ciarán Kelly, a Deputy Director at The Christian Institute, welcomed Mr Javid’s remarks and said it was “time for the Government to take action”.
“Way back in 2000, we warned that the abuse of trust offence was far too narrow.
“Leaving out sports coaches, religious leaders and others with influence over teenagers was always destined to put vulnerable young people at risk.”
Last year, former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch put forward a Ten Minute Rule Bill in an attempt to amend the Sexual Offences Act, reminding the House of Commons that The Christian Institute had called for this even before the legislation was first debated in 2000.
She argued that the Ministry of Justice should have acted immediately to close the loophole when numerous football coaches were accused of sexual abuse in 2016.
She said: “Anyone in a position to influence the direction of another person’s journey through life, meaning that a power balance rests with them, should not be able to abuse that position by a sexual relationship.”