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Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I shall comment on Amendment 86, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch referred. She was kind enough to refer to the contribution I made in Committee, when I moved an amendment that would have included sports coaches within the provision of the positions of trust elements of the Bill.
I look forward to what my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer says about this aspect. I know that he will have reflected on it. I have had further submissions from the NSPCC and others about the provision of sports coaches. It is a very substantial subject. There are 57 recognised and funded English national sports governing bodies and over 25,000 coaches hold qualifications recognised by those bodies.
The NSPCC and Sports Coach UK are conducting an audit to determine how many of these coaches work with young people. My suspicion is that it is a substantial number. I hope that this Bill can be used in some way to protect the vulnerable young people who are in the care of these sports coaches at a time when they are away from home and the sports coaches are, as the noble Baroness says, acting in loco parentis. These are young people who need assistance and I hope my noble and learned friend will indicate that he is willing either to accept this clause or to propose something similar to it.
I was concerned with almost all the areas to which the noble Baroness has referred. I do not necessarily support the listing of everybody in this way, because when you make out a list you always leave somebody out. Nevertheless, I hope she will accept that I have very much in mind the spirit in which these amendments are moved.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I have been associated with at least two residential youth centres and I am still a governor and trustee of an adult centre which sometimes takes in groups of young people. With that background, I support the intention and general direction of this group of amendments.
It is most important that positions of trust should not be abused. Nevertheless, if all or part of the group of amendments should meet with the approval of the Government and come to be enacted, I want to express the strong hope that the conditions laid down will not be so complicated and onerous as to deter the recruitment of suitable volunteersfor example, lay advocates of people held in residential institutions.
Baroness Noakes: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Blatch has raised some important issues about the scope of the abuse of trust offences. If there is a case for the protection of 16 and 17 year-olds, which I understand is what we are talking about under these offences, it is illogical to ignore circumstances where a position of trust can be set out. A teacher in a school will be covered, but not someone who teaches people in other settings; for example, in a sports setting or for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award. I cannot see the logic in that and I therefore believe that my noble friend's amendments are along the right lines. However, I fully accept that a boundary must be drawn or we will end up with all offences involving 16 or 17 year-olds being brought within the net.
I am not sure that all my noble friend's amendments are correct, but, equally, I do not believe that the Government have drawn the line in the right place. I hope that the Minister will be able to make further moves on the issue.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, although I cannot accept Amendments Nos. 82 and 84 because of the way in which they are drafted, I will be tabling amendments in time for Third Reading to bring within the scope of the abuse of trust offences those appointed as children's guardians under Section 41 of the Children Act; those appointed to supervise children under Section 35 of that Act in conjunction with Parts 1 and 2 of Schedule 3 (those references relate to supervision orders); and those appointed under Section 36 in conjunction with Part 3 of Schedule 3, which relate to education supervision orders. I will explain the justification for that when I move the
I shall deal with Amendments Nos. 81, 82, 85, 86 and 87, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. In deciding whether to accept them, we have had to consider how well the proposed categories fit within the guiding criteria for the abuse of trust offences and whether it is appropriate to criminalise consensual and what would otherwise be lawful sexual relationships in such circumstances. As the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, pointed out, we are dealing with 16 and 17 year-olds.
The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, asked: if we are criminalising some relationships, why not criminalise all?but immediately indicated what a mad view that was. There needs to be some line and criteria and principles. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, reminded the House, we said in Committee that the young person is particularly vulnerablefor example, in residential care or on probation in the community. The second principle is location and/or lack of access to other adults, and the absence of countervailing influences makes the young person particularly vulnerable. The third principle is the special influence of the adult; that is, that the adult acts in loco parentis.
Those seem sensible criteria to apply. However, in applying them to the proposals, I do not believe that youth and community workers, voluntary group workers or child minders fall within them. Although youth and community workers are employed by local authorities, their role is to run centres or projects which children attend voluntarily. They do not act in loco parentis and they do not have a position of power or influence in children's lives. We believe that they fall on the other side of the line. The same can be said of voluntary youth workers who do not have a statutory role. They run or help out at youth clubs or are involved in other community activities with children who participate out of choice and whose lives and futures cannot be adversely affected by the disfavour of a voluntary helper.
Child minders generally do not look after young people aged 16 and 17, and even if they are in the house at the same time as a young person in order to look after younger siblings the position of trust simply does not exist between the child minder and the 16 or 17 year-old.
As far as concerns ancillary or caretaking staff in institutions and homes, such people will already be caught within the scope of the offences if they look after the child as definedthat is, they are regularly involved in caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of the child. If they do not look after the child in the way that I have defined, then the basis for their inclusion is not justified because they do not have the necessary involvement or influence in the child's life. Nor is the child cut off from other adults because of their existence. Again, I do not think that they should fall within the category.
DCMS has now made a firm commitment to introduce that national coaching certificate. The final outcome will be to transform the current, largely voluntary, workforce into a recognised coaching profession. The certificate is to be set against national standards and developed at five levels. A core curriculum will be devised for the qualifications awarded by national governing bodies of the sports across the UK. Two possibilities remain to be decidedwhether adoption will be necessary for national governing bodies to be eligible to receive public funds and whether coaches would need the certificate in order to obtain a licence to practise.
DCMS believes that the latter is right in principle but final decisions will be taken in due course. The review was not primarily driven by concerns about child sexual abuse within sporting relationships, but that is one of a number of concerns that the national coaching certificate will aim to address. Once the measures are introduced, any coach who uses his position to manipulate a young athlete in his charge into a sexual relationship may lose his licence and his livelihood.
We believe that relying on those future measures will be the more appropriate way to deal with any problems that are identified and currently, subject to a point that I shall make, we are not minded to bring sports coaches within the scope of the offences. I have also considered the argument that sports coaches often act in loco parentis, especially where a talented young person is undergoing intensive training. Our problem lies in distinguishing that situation from the person who coaches the local football team on a Saturday morning. We do not think that there is any satisfactory way of drawing the line so that we do not, for example, criminalise the actions of the 18 year-old college student who falls in love with, and has a consensual sexual relationship with, one of the members of the local netball team, just because he helps to coach them one evening a week in his school holidays.
It is also the case, at a time when we are trying to encourage more people into the sports coaching profession, that we do not want to discourage them through fear of false allegations and prosecution for relationships that are consensual and not in any way abusive. I think that the right way forward is for us to reassess the position once the national coaching certificate has been introduced.
Should it transpire that that does not solve any problems which might exist, I should be happy to review the position and to consider using the order-making power attached to these offences in order to bring sports coaches within the scope. There is one problem in that approach, about which I am particularly conscious of the strength of feeling in the House. The certificate will not be introduced until 2007. What will happen in the mean time?
We believe that the right approach is to consult now to take a view on whether the approach that we suggest is the right one, and if not, whether earlier measures need to be considered. Having considered carefully, we believe that there is a way forward in relation to sports coaches which does not involve amending the Bill at this stage, but it is on the basis of the steps that I have proposed.
For those reasons I am unable to accept the amendments. However, as I made clear at the outset of my remarks on Amendments Nos. 83 and 84, I shall table amendments on Third Reading to deal with the points raised.
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