NSPCC Scotland calls for Sexual Offences Act which bars teachers having sex with 16 and 17 year-old pupils to be extended to sports coaches and youth workers
Sports coaches should be banned from having sex with 16 and 17 year-old team members according to a national charity.
NSPCC Scotland says its not right that coaches and youth workers aren't classed the same as professionals such as teachers and social workers are under the Sexual Offences Act 2009 in Scotland.
The charity made the call following a number of historic allegations of abuse in football and thousands of people phoned its UK wide dedicated football hotline for victims of abuse.
The act makes it an offence for someone over 18 in a defined position, or in certain settings such as hospitals or children’s homes, to engage in sexual activity with 16 and 17 year olds in their care.
Therefore sexual activity between an adult coach and a 16 or 17 year old child is not currently illegal in most contexts, because the role of sports coach falls outside the legal definition.
Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland, said coaches and youth workers must be put on equal footing as teachers and social workers so that adults who have considerable authority and influence over young people are not able to prey on them once they turn 16.
He added: “It is remarkable that the roles like sports coaches are not considered to be a position of trust by law, given the significant amount of responsibility, influence and authority that an individual in this role can hold in a young person’s life.
“Sadly, we know that this trust can be abused and it is therefore vital that this legal definition is widened to include sports coaches and other youth workers, bolstering protection for teenagers at risk of grooming once they pass the age of consent.
“This is not about demonising certain jobs, but about protecting young people from a small minority of adults only too happy to take advantage of their standing in society to groom and abuse vulnerable children.”
As well as changes to the law, the charity is also calling for an urgent review of the protection of vulnerable groups (PVG) scheme as it has found evidence of organisations not seeking PVG checks where individuals will be supervised in their contact with children, despite it saying this is not how the system was intended to operate.
NSPCC Scotland is also calling on the Scottish Government to introduce Local Authority Designated Officers (LADOs). Elsewhere in the UK, LADOs are responsible for overseeing allegations of abuse concerning adults who work with children.
They also give advice and support to small organisations where allegations have been made. Scotland currently does not have an equivalent.
Police Scotland recently confirmed it has made two arrests and is investigating 130 reports of sexual abuse in football.
NSPCC counsellors who took calls on its dedicated hotline heard from callers that adults working with children had abused their trusting relationship to groom and abuse young players.