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Child abuse ‘position of trust’ laws expanded to cover sports coaches and faith leaders

New legislation would make it a crime for sports coaches and faith leaders to engage in sexual relationships with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care.

Posted on 10 March 2021

The proposed change in legislation announced on Tuesday, 9 March, 2021 would see sports coaches and faith leaders brought in line with other adults who hold a position of trust over under-18s, such as teachers and social workers. For those professions, it is already a criminal offence to engage in sexual activity with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care.

Campaigners have been seeking an extension to the law in relation to further categories of adults who hold a position of trust over children, calling for the loophole to be closed. The NSPCC has been vocal about this since the scandal of abuse in football gained widespread awareness several years ago.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, 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.”

The new changes have been introduced in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and have been welcomed by Leigh Day abuse lawyers.

Leigh Day has many years’ experience of representing children and young adults who were subjected to sexual activity by their sports coaches in football and other sports.

Catriona Rubens, solicitor in the abuse team at Leigh Day who has represented persons subjected to abuse by sports coaches, said:

“I welcome the recently-announced change in the law which will hopefully see this loophole in relation to sports coaches and faith leaders in a position of trust over children closed once and for all.

“The intensity of the professional relationship between sports coaches and young athletes can be open for manipulation and grooming, and the proposed amendments will offer further protection to children in their pursuit of sporting activities.”

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Cat Rubens
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Catriona Rubens

Catriona Rubens is a solicitor in the abuse team.

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