A legal loophole is letting sports coaches and youth workers get away with sexual abuse of 16 and 17-year-olds, a charity has said.
While teachers, social workers and healthcare staff are banned from sexual contact with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care, it is not illegal for sports coaches, religious or other youth leaders.
Offences of abuse of the so called ‘Position of Trust’ have increased 57% over the past five years.
The latest data shows there have been 86 recorded sex crimes by adults in a ‘Position of Trust’ in Yorkshire in the past five years.
In total, 1,290 offences have been recorded since 2011-12 – 63 of which are in West Yorkshire.
The NSPCC said it fears the real numbers are much higher and it is calling for laws which protects under 16s to be extended to older teens.
NSPCC Head of Policy Almudena Lara said: “Safeguarding in children’s clubs should not end suddenly at 16.
“The NSPCC has been told of a number of cases where in sports and other youth work settings leaders have used their position to groom children and then take advantage of them as soon as they turn 16.
“It is baffling that sports coaches and other youth workers are not deemed to be in a position of trust, given the significant responsibility, influence and authority that adults in these roles have over the children they are there to look after.
“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 was what happened to Lee who was befriended by youth leader, Adam at his church group when he was 15.
Adam began texting Lee and asking to spend time together outside of the group.
Lee said: “Adam started by sitting closer to me on the sofa, trailing his finger on to mine. Things which I thought were weird but not big enough to react to.”
Things escalated to kissing and sexual contact when Lee turned 16.
He added: “I was so confused but knew what he was doing was wrong. I wanted it to stop but part of me was afraid to speak out because I didn’t want to get him in trouble.”
Children who are worried about the issue can contact Childline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0800 1111 or by visiting www.childline.org.uk
The NSPCC also runs a helpline for adults 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0808 800 5000 or visiting www.nspcc.org.uk .