Abusers exploiting legal loophole to secure ‘positions of trust’ to groom children

People who prey on children are deliberately exploiting a “legal loophole” to groom young people – by getting themselves into “positions of trust” like driving instructors or sports coaches, MPs have heard.

Tory MP Richard Graham (Gloucester) called on the Government to include driving instructors, sports coaches, and other adults working with children in extra-curricular activities in the definition of “positions of trust” in the Sexual Offences Act.

Mr Graham (pictured) said: “The truth is there are some harrowing situations in which young women in particular, but not exclusively, have been groomed by manipulative coaches or sports instructors or driving instructors, who really are in a position of care.

“For some time, the Government has said it will look at this closely, but has tended to fall back on the line that, once people are over 16, there isn’t much you can do. Can I urge the minister to look at these situations closely?”

Justice minister Paul Maynard said: “We do have an element of consideration to give to where an individual is in a position of responsibility, but also where the young person involved has a degree of vulnerability.

“There is always a balance to be struck that we do not criminalise behaviour that is currently legal. The age of consent does remain at 16.”

Mr Maynard said protection of children from the “scourge of sexual abuse in all its forms” is a top priority for the Government.

He said the Government recognises concerns that people might “abuse a position of power” over 16 and 17-year-olds to “pressure” them into a sexual relationship. He said a review of the existing law is underway to make sure it is working effectively.

Labour MP Sarah Champion (Rotherham) said: “People who prey on children deliberately get themselves in positions of trust. They know and exploit this legal loophole as I believe the minister is aware.

“So, rather than just a review, can I ask you to do what your previous sports minister agreed to and actually change the law?”

Mr Maynard said he understood the points made, and is keen to see the results of the review to make sure young people are being protected.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) House of Commons.