South Yorkshire MP pressures ministers to close loophole which allows sex offenders to work with teens

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion is calling on ministers to close a loophole that allows sex offenders to exploit 16 and 17-year-olds in their care.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 12:30 pm

Ms Champion will lead a parliamentary debate today demanding the government urgently close a loophole in the law that allows sexual offenders to groom and exploit 16 and 17-year olds in their care with impunity.

The 2003 Sexual Offences Act currently prohibits individuals in defined roles such as teachers or social workers from exploiting their position, but does not include other adults with similar influence, such as sports coaches or faith leaders, leaving children in non-statutory settings vulnerable to abuse.

In 2019, the Ministry of Justice conducted a review into the law and stated they should be able to announce next steps in May 2020, however, no such such announcement was made.

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Sarah Champion MP.

Sarah Champion MP is the founding Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Safeguarding in Faith Settings.

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In January 2020, the group published a report calling for the Government to close the loophole in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

During the debate, Sarah Champion, founding chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Safeguarding in Faith Settings is set to tell ministers that parents should expect the same legal protections sending their child to a youth centre or religious group as they would sending them to school.

“Protecting children and young people from harm should be one of the Governments top priorities. It’s clear from my work with survivors and child protection specialists that robust legislation needs to be in place to tackle the abhorrent abuse happening right now,” she added.

“I’ve repeatedly made it clear to the Government that this legal loophole allows abusers to act with impunity. If the Government is serious about showing zero tolerance to child abuse, they must act to change the law.”

Andrew Fellowes, associate head of policy and public affairs at the NSPCC, said: “Returning to extra-curricular activities is an important step towards normality for young people after an incredibly difficult year but doing the things they love shouldn’t place them at risk of being groomed and takenadvantage of by the very people who are meant to be looking after them.

“Over the last three years, organisations from sport, faith and voluntary sectors have been joined by voices from across the political spectrum in calling for this to be addressed.

“Now it is vital that the Government acts and finally closes the loophole.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.