16-17 year olds to be protected in new law

The Government is to make it illegal for sports coaches and faith leaders to have sex with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care after a prolonged campaign from the NSPCC.

The Ministry of Justice has announced that the Positions of Trust law, which currently applies to roles like teachers and social workers, will be extended as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to be unveiled in Parliament today (March 9).

It has been hailed as a ‘landmark step’ for the protection of young people by the NSPCC which has campaigned for this as part of their Close the Loophole campaign.

The children’s charity gained widespread political and public support for its campaign to extend the legal protection for 16 and 17-year-olds to prevent them being targeted by adults with power and influence over them.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: “We are delighted that after relentless campaigning, the Government has finally listened to our calls and agreed to close this legal loophole.

 

“This landmark step sends a clear message that children and young people can return to the extracurricular activities they love without being at risk of grooming by the very adults they should look to for support and guidance.

“Thank you to everyone who stood up for children and threw their weight behind our campaign. With children set to return to activities in spring and summer, we will be looking at the details behind this announcement very closely.”

Hannah* was manipulated into engaging in a sexual relationship with her swim coach when she turned 16. In July, she was supported by the NSPCC to write to the Ministry of Justice urging them to protect teenagers from predatory behaviour by those in a position of trust.

In response to the announcement, she said: Closing the loophole in the law means a huge amount to me. Sports coaches get to know so much about you from such a young age, you grow and develop under their care.

“Children deserve to be protected from predatory adults when doing something they enjoy and the fact they currently aren’t is a huge injustice.

“What happened to me put a strain on all my relationships and affected me deeply. No child should have to fend off the sexual advances of an adult they trust.”

The NSPCC began campaigning to extend the law in 2017 after the football abuse scandal in 2016 highlighted how adults utilised their positions of authority in sports settings to abuse children.

In the past year, the Government faced mounting pressure from the charity, a 4,420-strong petition, the network of council safeguarding leads, national sporting bodies and Parliamentarians including Sarah Champion, Tracey Crouch and Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Last week, Sarah Champion led an Adjournment Debate to make the case to the Government about why it was so important for them to close the loophole.

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