Call to ex­tend laws to pro­tect chil­dren

Fig­ures on abuse by adults in po­si­tion of trust raise con­cerns

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - by Katy Clifton katy.clifton@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twit­ter: @Katy_Clifton1

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.”

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