LONDON, July 10 (Xinhua) — Sarah Champion, a member of the House of Commons in the UK, called on Friday for a law change to prevent sports coaches engaging in sexual activity with teenagers they are training.
It follows a report showing there has been more than 160 cases of sports coaches engaging in sexual activity with 16-or-17-year-olds in their care since 2016.
The figures emerged under a Freedom of Information request put forward by the national broadcaster, the BBC.
The figures have prompted campaigners to say the law must be changed urgently.
Victims, politicians and the country’s children’s charity, the NSPCC, have renewed calls for a legal loophole to be closed to ban anyone holding a position of responsibility over a child from having a sexual relationship with them, said the BBC.
It is illegal in Britain for certain professions, including teachers and doctors, to engage in sexual activity with children, even if they are over the age of consent. But at present, the Sexual Offences Act does not extend to sports coaches.
“There is a gaping legal loophole that perpetrators of child abuse are walking straight into. I’ve been raising this with the government for six years and my frustration is that we keep on having reviews,” Champion said.
“In the intervening years while the government hasn’t acted and has just had consultation after consultation, more children have had their lives wrecked.”
Champion said the latest figures for the number of cases makes it irrefutable to the government that they have to act on this.
She said the number of victims shown by the FOI request were the “tip of the iceberg”, adding: “The vast, vast majority of these cases will never be reported.”
“Sports coaches are grooming these children into believing they are in a legitimate relationship. It’s not. It’s an abuse of their power position. It will take sometimes decades for the young people to realize exactly what was going on and speak out about it. So 160 people that we know about will be a tiny minority of the actual people that are abusing their position,” Champion stressed.
A government spokesperson responded by saying the law would be reviewed and plans would be submitted to lawmakers. Enditem