Cornwall MPs back NSPCC campaign to close loophole affecting safety of 16/17 year olds

Local MPs Scott Mann and Stephen Double have backed an NSPCC campaign to close a loophole that allows adults to have sex with teenagers they supervise.

Currently, only people, such as teachers, social workers and youth justice workers are legally in a position of trust, which means it is a crime for them to have sex with the 16 or 17-year-olds they supervise.

Sports coaches, faith leaders, driving instructors, and cadet leaders, are amongst some of the roles that are legally allowed to have sex with teenagers they are responsible for.

The NSPCC has warned that this loophole leaves young people vulnerable to being groomed on the pitch, in places of worship, or other extracurricular settings.

The charity’s Close the Loophole campaign is calling for these laws to be extended to all adults with responsibility for young people, to stop children being preyed upon as soon as they turn 16.

Now the loophole is being reviewed by the Ministry of Justice, after St Austell and Newquay MP Stephen Double, and MP for North Cornwall Scott Mann, along with 30 others, threw their weight behind the NSPCC’s demand.

The support came after nearly 3,000 NSPCC supporters called on their local MP to insist the Justice Secretary, David Gauke, make it illegal for adults to have sex with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care.

Regional Head of Service for the NSPCC in the South West of England, Sharon Copsey, said: “Most parents will probably be shocked that the adults they trust to supervise their teenagers can legally have sex with these children.

“It makes no sense that children are protected from predatory adults in some settings but not others. It’s good to see that Stephen Double and Scott Mann are as worried as we are and are demanding a change that will protect children.

“Although most adults who supervise young people will have their best interests at heart, there is a small minority who will exploit their role and target a child, knowing full well they can get away with it. This is not right and we’re calling on the government to Close the Loophole. All children must be protected whether they’re in the classroom, on a football pitch, or at a cadet meeting.”

The fresh review marks a complete U-turn for the government after it originally promised to close the loophole in 2017, before backtracking last year.

Figures obtained by the NSPCC last year revealed how adults in non-statutory roles have been allowed to exploit their position of influence by lying in wait until a child in their care turns 16.

Between 2014 and 2018 police in England and Wales recorded 1,025 crimes of Abuse of Position of Trust of a Sexual Nature. But council figures obtained by the NSPCC show a further 653 complaints were made over the same period about adults who are not currently covered by the criminal law having sex with children in their care.

The NSPCC warned the figures betrayed only a fraction of the true size of the problem because, as it is perfectly legal for adults to have sex with teenagers in their care, many cases will not be reported.

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