Trusts law position – update on changes to the Coaches Act

This is an important update to inform coaches of changes to the law which came into force on Tuesday 28th June 2022. These changes have been made to support sports organizations and national governing bodies, such as British Ice Skating, in order to make the sport safer for children and will affect the position of coaches under criminal law.

What is changing?

Under criminal law, all coaches are now deemed to be in a “position of trust”, as stipulated in the Sexual Offenses Act 2003.

What does this mean for ice skating coaches?

Prior to the changes to the law, sections 16 to 19 of the Sexual Offenses Act 2003 prohibited an adult in a position of trust from engaging in sexual relations with a 16 or 17 year old. This was intended to protect 16- and 17-year-olds who are over the age of consent to sexual activity but are considered vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation in situations where an adult is in a position of trust. It included people like doctors and teachers, but did not include athletic trainers.

The new section 22A of the Sexual Offenses Act will expand the definition of “position of trust” to include any adult who regularly coaches, teaches, trains, supervises or instructs a 16 or 17 year old in sport.

How does that change things?

It brings any trainer into the definition of a position of trust and therefore liable to criminal sanctions. In practice, it is already against our protection policy and our codes of practice for a person in a position of authority or influence to enter into an inappropriate relationship with a 16 or 17 year old, and when such relationship was identified, this would have incurred a sanction.

Why has the law changed?

Adults who regularly coach, teach, train, supervise or instruct a child/adolescent in a sport have a significant influence on that young person’s development. They also have a lot of influence, trust and responsibility in the roles they fill. These individuals may also be well known, trusted and respected in the sports community. Therefore, even if the young person does not perceive the relationship as abusive or exploitative, there is a significant power imbalance between the adult and the young person. This can cause the adult to abuse their position of trust, leaving the young person vulnerable to manipulation and preparation.

What to do now?

Please share this information with your club committee, welfare officers, coaches and officials, and any other club members.

We will also provide updates and guidance on legislative changes for club officials and coaches during the upcoming conference call and at the coaches convention.

If you have any questions about changes in legislation or concerns about a person in a position of trust, please contact John Mills, Chief Privacy Officer at [email protected]

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