Sports Coaches (Positions of Trust)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford 11:00 am, 4th March 2020

I agree, and I hope that the Minister is listening and will take positive action. My hon. Friend has done amazing work to highlight the issues with driving instructors and should be congratulated on that. Concerns about the scope of the proscribed list is a poor reason to avoid taking a policy position and changing the positions of trust provisions.

Anyone in a position to influence the direction of another person’s journey through life—meaning that a power balance rests with them—should not be able to abuse that position via a sexual relationship. Someone’s place in the team or time on the pitch, or the competitions in which they are entered, should not be vulnerable to another person’s physical or emotional demands.

The legislation can be easily amended, either by adding to the list or removing it altogether. The Ministry asked for evidence of why change was required and, although evidence was provided, nothing has happened. Earlier this year, The Guardian reported that a freedom of information request had found that between 2014 and 2018, there were 653 cases in which adults who could be regarded as being in a position of trust had had a sexual relationship with a 16 or 17-year-old. Of the 495 cases in which the adult’s role was recorded, the majority were in sport, and the data showed that such incidents had increased.

Sport is doing what it can to prevent dangerous people from working with children and young adults. It has enhanced its safeguarding procedures, as part of the implementation of my sports governance code, and many use enhanced DBS checks. While the loophole exists, however, that in the eyes of the law it is deemed okay to have sex with someone over the age of 16 in your trust in sport, coercive and abusive behaviour will continue and the lives of many more youngsters will be ruined.

When I was a Minister, with the then Home Office and Justice Ministers, we agreed that that change was essential, so the inexplicable delay in implementing that ministerial direction is shameful. I understand that the MOJ is exploring non-legislative solutions but, frankly, that can never solve what is fundamentally a legal problem. It would be a shocking downgrading of the Department’s responsibilities. Guidance is not the law, in that sense.

I appreciate that the Minister was not in the hot seat when officials were finding reasons why not to do that previously, but he is now. As Jim Shannon said, now is the time for no more dither, no more delay. We have a duty to act. This legislative loophole needs a legislative solution, and it needs to be done now.