The news comes as the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) revealed that sex crimes by adults in a position of trust has risen nationally by 82 per cent, with nearly 1,000 such instances reported since 2014.
The number of offences whereby professionals such as teachers, care staff and youth justice workers targeted 16 and 17-year-olds in their care for sex rose to 290 in the year to June, up from 159 three years ago.
These ‘Position of Trust’ laws don’t currently apply to other adults working with young people, but the government has announced this month that it plans to extend legislation to cover sports coaches
The NSPCC’s #TrustToLead campaign is urging Government to go further and extend the law to cover all adults working regularly with children, including religious leaders, adults working in the arts, outdoor pursuits and other activities.
The current loophole means that adults with regular and intense contact with children in extra-curricular activities are potentially able to groom them from a young age, and abuse that trusting relationship in order to have sexual contact as soon as the child turns 16.
This was what happened to Lee* who was befriended by youth leader, Adam*, at his church group when he was 15.
Adam began texting Lee and asking to spend time together outside of the group.
Lee said: ‘Adam started by sitting closer to me on the sofa, trailing his finger on to mine. Things which I thought were weird but not big enough to react to.’
Things escalated to kissing and sexual contact when Lee turned 16.
He added: ‘I was so confused but knew what he was doing was wrong. 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 chief executive Peter Wanless said: “It’s hard to believe that the law protects 16- and 17-year-old children from being preyed upon in the classroom, but not on the sports pitch or on the stage.
“We know that some adult youth workers spend years grooming young people and then, as soon as their 16th birthday comes around, they target them for sex.
“Extending ‘Position of Trust’ laws to sports coaches is an important step in the right direction which will help protect more children from this kind of abuse.
“But to stop there would be a missed opportunity. The Government must close this loophole to protect children from other adults who use their authority to exploit them.”
(* Names have been changed to protect anonymity).