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Leading abuse lawyer calls for new legislation following allegations of sexual abuse in football

Leading child abuse lawyer calls for mandatory reporting of sexual abuse allegations in sports clubs and warns that a loophole in the law leaves older teenage sports stars open to abuse

Football goal

1 December 2016

A leading child abuse lawyer has called for the Government to do more to consider mandatory reporting of sexual abuse allegations in sports clubs, following the Football Association’s announcement that an internal review into allegations of child abuse has begun.

Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at law firm Leigh Day, has also warned that a loophole in the law leaves older teenage sports stars open to abuse.

In July this year the Government launched a consultation on possible mandatory reporting, which considered sports clubs and other organisations being placed under a legal duty to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect to the proper authorities.

Ms Millar said: "Many people will be shocked that in the UK, unlike in other countries, sports clubs are under no legal duty to report allegations of sexual abuse to the police.

“The Government must make it a priority to look at the duty of care sports clubs owe children to ensure they are protected and perpetrators are stopped at the earliest opportunity.”

Ms Millar has also urged the Government to examine the legal loophole which enables sports coaches, in a position of significant power, from avoiding prosecution if they have sex with 16 or 17-year-olds.

If a teacher, care worker or other professional in the public sector has sexual contact with a 16 or 17-year-old, that teenager would be protected by the law. However, that same law does not apply to sports coaches.

Ms Millar said: “The legal loophole regarding 16 and 17-year-olds must be closed; sports coaches often hold great power over children in their charge, more so than a teacher.

“The young person’s future dreams can depend upon that coach. The law must protect teenagers from those who would seek to take advantage of this power.”

More than 20 former football players have now spoken out about alleged sexual abuse in football and around 350 reports have been made to police regarding alleged sexual abuse in the sport.

The allegations emerged after several former footballers waived their anonymity to details allegations of historic sexual abuse by coaches and scouts linked to several football clubs.

Ms Millar welcomed the FA’s announcement that it has begun an internal review and has urged all sports bodies to review their child safety policies.

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