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Legal loophole ‘protects children in classroom but not on sports pitch’ says NSPCC chief

The NSPCC are looking to inform the public abotu child neglect. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

The NSPCC are looking to inform the public abotu child neglect. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Police were unable to act on five cases of adults having sex with teenagers in their care over the last four years due to a legal loophole, the NSPCC has revealed.

Currently only people like teachers, care workers and youth justice workers are legally in a position of trust, meaning it is illegal for them to have sex with 16 or 17-year-olds they supervise.

However, a legal loophole means some adults, such as sports coaches and faith leaders, are exempt from the law.

According to the NSPCC, over the last four years there have been five complaints made to Suffolk County Council that could not be investigated by police or the council because of the loophole in the Position of Trust law.

Across East Anglia, the number of complaints logged by councils was 117 in the last four years.

The child protection charity has been campaigning the government for a change in the law but fears it is backtracking on its promises.

Last year, Office of National Statistics showed the number of offences committed by professionals such as teachers, care staff and youth justice workers targeting 16 and 17-year-olds in their care in the east of England had risen from 20 in 2014, to 53 up to June 2017.

In Suffolk, the figure had jumped from three in 2014 to six in 2017 while the number increased in Essex from one in 2014 to four in 2017.

In November last year, former sports minister Tracey Crouch announced that the then Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Ministry of Justice had agreed the Position of Trust laws would be extended to sports coaches. However, no action has yet been taken.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC, chief executive, said the loophole must be closed to protect children: “It is absolutely outrageous that the law protects children in the classroom, but not on the sports pitch, or in a while 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.”

For more information, see www.nspcc.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigns/close-the-loophole/

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