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Sexual Offences Act 2003: Definition of Positions of Trust

Volume 661: debated on Tuesday 4 June 2019

13. If he will make it his policy to include in the definition of positions of trust in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (a) driving instructors, (b) sports coaches and (c) other adults working with children in extra-curricular activities. (911118)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for this question. Protecting children from the scourge of sexual abuse in all its forms is a top priority for the Government. The law is clear: all sexual activity with someone under the age of 16 is illegal and all non-consensual activity is also illegal. However, the Government recognise that there are concerns about those who might abuse their position of power over a 16 or 17-year-old to pressure them into engaging in a sexual relationship. This is why we are working closely with colleagues across Government to take forward a review of the existing law to check that it is working effectively and protecting young people.

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, but the truth is that there have been some harrowing situations in which young women in particular, although not exclusively, have been groomed by manipulative coaches, sports instructors or driving instructors who are in a position of care. For some time, the Government have said that they will look at this closely, but have tended to fall back on the line that once people are over 16 there is not much they can do. May I urge the Minister to look at this situation closely? The NSPCC campaign is a good place to start. Will he agree to meet me and representatives of the NSPCC to discuss this issue?

I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend and Peter Wanless from the NSPCC. My hon. Friend rightly makes a number of points that need to be borne in mind. We have to give an element of consideration to individuals who are in a position of responsibility in relation to young people with the degree of vulnerability. There is always a balance to be struck so that we do not criminalise behaviour that is currently legal, and the age of consent remains at 16.

People who prey on children often deliberately get themselves into a position of trust, and they know and exploit this legal loophole, as I believe the Minister is aware. Rather than simply carrying out a review, will he do what the previous sports Minister agreed to do, which is to change the law?

This is why we are having a review to ensure that we understand whether the law is working correctly and young people are being protected. I understand the points being made about sports coaches, driving examiners and many others, which is why I am keen to see the results of the review.