Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham is leading cross-party MPs and faith groups in a call to change the law to protect 16 and 17-year-olds from sexual abuse in religious settings. She wants the Government to close the loophole in the law that allows adults in “positions of trust” to legally engage in sexual activity with young people they are working with.
Under current legislation, only certain job roles are designated as a ‘position of trust’ under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, including teachers and youth justice workers. As a result, it is against the law for them to engage in sexual activity with the 16 or 17-year-olds that they supervise.
However, adults working in other settings, such as faith organisations or sports clubs, do not commit a crime if engage in sexual activity with children aged 16 or 17 under their supervision, even though adults in these positions often hold significant power and influence over the child. This means that in non-statutory settings children are unnecessarily left more vulnerable to abuse.
Ms Champion said:
“It makes no sense that young people should be protected from grooming and sexual abuse at school but not at their church or football club”
The report, released today, calls for the Government to make a simple change in the law so that the definition of a ‘position of trust’ applies to any adult who is ‘regularly involved in caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of such a person’.
The call to change the law comes with the full backing of many of the major church groups represented in the UK, including: The Church of England, the Methodist Church, the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service, the United Reformed Church and others. The changes to protect 16 & 17 year olds in religious settings is also supported by the NSPCC, and a number of professional safeguarding bodies and academics.