Call to extend laws to protect children
Figures on abuse by adults in position of trust raise concerns
THE NSPCC has condemned a “legal loophole” after the local number of sexual offences committed by adults in a position of trust was revealed to be 38.
Official data showed that, since 2011, there were nearly 40 recorded sex crimes involving abuse of position of trust in the Thames Valley Police Force area.
However, the leading children’s charity fears the true extent of child abuse is much worse because the law does not apply to youth work roles, such as sports coaches and leaders of religious groups.
The NSPCC revealed a 57% increase in recorded Abuse of Position offences in England and Wales where professionals have had sexual contact with 16 or 17-year-old children they work with.
In total, 1,290 people in positions of trust, such as teachers or care staff, were discovered abusing their positions since 2011/12.
After these statistics were revealed, the NSPCC’s #TrustToLead campaign called for laws relating to positions of trust to be extended, to better protect children in sport and other youth activities.
Currently, a legal loophole means adults with regular contact with children, in sport or other activities, are able to groom them from a young age and, once they have reached their 16th birthday, they are able to have sexual contact with them, said the charity.
Lee, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, was befriended by youth leader Adam, whose name has also been changed, at his church group when he was just 15.
Adam began texting Lee asking to spend time together outside the religious group.
“Adam started by sitting closer to me on the sofa,” Lee said. “Trailing his finger on to mine - things which I thought were weird but not big enough to react to.”
When Lee reached his 16th birthday, things began escalating to kissing and sexual contact.
“I was so confused but knew what he was doing was wrong,” he added.
“I wanted it to stop but part of me was afraid to speak out because I didn’t want to get him in trouble.”
NSPCC head of policy Almudena Lara said safeguarding laws should be extended to protect children from adults abusing positions of trust.
She said: “Safeguarding in children’s clubs should not end suddenly at 16.
“The NSPCC has been told of a number of cases where in sports and other youth work settings, leaders have used their position to groom children, and then take advantage of them as soon as they turn 16.
“It is baffling that sports coaches and other youth workers are not deemed to be in a position of trust, given the significant responsibility, influence and authority that adults in these roles have over the children they are there to look after.
“Sadly, we know that this trust can be abused and it is, therefore, vital that this legal definition is widened to include sports coaches and other youth workers, bolstering protection for teenagers at risk of grooming once they pass the age of consent.”