Pressure on government to Close the Loophole

Last updated: 16 Jul 2020 Topics: Working with our partners Safeguarding children Type: News article

The NSPCC has relaunched its petition, which was signed by 4,420 people in just two weeks, to ensure no child is being preyed upon as soon as they turn 16. 

The NSPCC’s ‘Close the Loophole’ campaign calls on the Ministry of Justice to review the Sexual Offences Act in order to make roles such as sports coaches, driving instructors and faith leaders legal positions of trust.

At present, only people such as teachers, care workers and youth justice workers are legally in a position of trust, meaning it is against the law for them to have sex with 16- or 17-year-olds that they supervise.

This means that if adults working in any other setting, such as sport, have sex with children aged 16 or 17 who are under their supervision, it is not currently a crime, even if the adult has a significant level of power, responsibility and influence over the child.

What's been happening

In 2017, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson led a review into sport’s Duty of Care to athletes and recommended this change in the law.

In November 2019, former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch announced that the then Department for Culture Media and Sport and the Ministry of Justice had agreed that Position of Trust laws would be extended to sports coaches.

No further action was taken by the Ministry of Justice until recently, when former minister Tracey Crouch put forward a 10-minute Rule Bill to make sports coach a position of trust for the purposes of child sex offences.

The Ministry of Justice has now agreed to review the law and that it will outline its plans for the law soon.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said:

“It is absolutely outrageous that the law protects children in the classroom, but not on the sports pitch, or in a whole host of other activities.

“Government promised to extend these laws to sports coaches, but we’ve yet to see action and I fear they are backtracking.

“Any extension of the law must apply to all adults working with young people. To keep children safe this loophole must be closed – it is not enough to simply make the loophole smaller.”

How the loophole affects sport

In the last 4 years, police in England and Wales have recorded 1,025 crimes of abuse of position of trust of a sexual nature across sectors.

Over the same 4-year period, there were 653 complaints of this nature made to local authorities. Out of over 40 applicable sectors that this loophole affects, around 33% of these complaints related to sport.

The NSPCC feels that to extend the law only to cover sports roles would be a missed opportunity and still leave many children unprotected in other sectors.

Support the campaign

Help us Close the Loophole in the law that's putting 16 and 17 year olds at risk.

Further information

Find out more about preventing abuse of positions of trust within sport in our briefing paper on the subject.