Closing ‘positions of trust’ legal loophole will better protect teenagers in Wales from sexual predators
New legislation will be unveiled in Parliament today (March 9) which seeks to prevent adults in ‘positions of trust’ from engaging in sexual relationships with young people under the age of 18.
It’s illegal for teachers, care workers and youth justice workers to have sex with 16 or 17-year-olds in their care.
But a loophole in the law means sports coaches and faith leaders can legally have sexual relationships with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care.
The “landmark step” follows an extensive review which raised concerns that predators could exploit the particular influence these roles can often have in a young person’s life – making them vulnerable to abuse.
The new legislation included in the wide ranging The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill follows the long standing ‘Close the Loophole’ campaign by the NSPCC.
The charity began campaigning to extend the law in 2017 after the football abuse scandal in 2016 highlighted how adults utilised their positions of authority in sports settings to abuse children.
The campaign gained widespread political and public support to extend the legal protection for 16 and 17-year-olds to prevent them being targeted by adults with power and influence over them.
Laura Whapham, Child Protection in Sport Senior Consultant for NSPCC Cymru/Wales says: “It has been a long time coming, but following tireless NSPCC campaigning we are thrilled that the UK Government has listened to our calls and is finally agreeing to close this legal loophole.
“It is a huge breakthrough that will mean better protection for young people in Wales who will now be at less risk of being groomed by adults they trust during extracurricular activities.”
“As well as this landmark legal change, which we will follow closely, we want to see Welsh Government make a commitment to a renewed and comprehensive Welsh Action Plan in the next Senedd term to help prevent child sexual abuse and further protect and support children and young people.”
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill seeks to equip the police with the powers and tools they need to protect themselves and the public, while overhauling sentencing laws to keep serious sexual and violent offenders behind bars for longer, and placing greater emphasis on rehabilitation to better help offenders to turn their lives around and prevent further crimes.
New court orders will boost efforts to crack down on knife crime, as well as make it easier to stop and search those suspected of carrying a blade.
New laws will also enable police to better tackle unauthorised encampments, and safely manage protests where they threaten public order or stop people from getting on with their daily lives.
The Bill will also enshrine a Police Covenant in law, strengthening the support received by serving and retired officers, staff and their families.
In addition, maximum penalties will be doubled from 12 months to 2 years for those who assault police or other emergency workers, such as prison officers, fire personnel or frontline health workers – helping to protect those who put their lives on the line to keep communities safe.
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland QC said: “This government has pledged to crack down on crime and build safer communities. Today we are delivering on that commitment.”
“We are giving the police and courts the powers they need to keep our streets safe, while providing greater opportunities for offenders to turn their lives around and better contribute to society.”
“At the same time, we are investing hundreds of millions to deliver speedier justice and boost support for victims, and will continue to do everything it takes to build back confidence in the criminal justice system.”
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