New laws to prevent adults in ‘positions of trust’ from engaging in sexual relationships with under 18’s have been outlined in The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill unveiled in Parliament today.
Important laws will be widened to bring sports coaches and religious leaders in line with other occupations such as teachers and doctors. ‘Positions of trust’ laws will be extended to protect teenagers from abuse by making it illegal for sports coaches and religious leaders from engaging in sexual activity with 16 and 17-year-olds.
The move follows an extensive review which raised concerns that predators could exploit the particular influence these roles can often have in a young person’s life – making them vulnerable to abuse.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: “We are delighted that after relentless campaigning, the Government has finally listened to our calls and agreed to close this legal loophole.
“This landmark step sends a clear message that children and young people can return to the extracurricular activities they love without being at risk of grooming by the very adults they should look to for support and guidance,” he added.
The Bill also includes measures to:
- Overhaul sentencing laws to keep serious sexual and violent offenders in prison for longer, and place greater emphasis on rehabilitation to better help offenders to turn their lives around and prevent further crimes.
- Introduce new court orders to boost efforts to crack down on knife crime, as well as make it easier to stop and search those suspected of carrying a blade.
- Double maximum penalties from 12 months to two years for those who assault police or other emergency workers, such as prison officers, fire personnel or frontline health workers – helping to protect those who put their lives on the line to keep communities safe.
- Include Whole Life Orders (WLOs) for the premeditated murder of a child, with judges also allowed to impose this punishment on 18 to 20-year-olds in exceptional cases - for example, acts of terrorism which cause mass loss of life.
- Ends the automatic halfway release for serious violent and sexual offenders.
- Introducing new starting points for deciding the minimum amount of time in custody based on age and seriousness of offence for children who commit murder, and reducing the opportunities for over 18s who committed murder as a child to have their minimum term reviewed.
- Ensure community sentences are stricter and better target underlying causes of crime such as mental health issues, alcohol or drug addiction.
- Introduce Stronger youth community sentencing options, including greater use of location monitoring and longer daily curfews, providing robust alternatives to custody.
A statutory duty will be placed on local authorities and criminal justice agencies to tackle serious violence through better sharing of data and intelligence.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will be introduced to Parliament today ( 9 March 2021).