On Tuesday 22 October, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Safeguarding in Faith Settings held an evidence session at the Houses of Parliament as part of its inquiry into whether there should be a change in legislation relating to ‘Positions of Trust’ within faith settings. This Inquiry comes as the Ministry of Justice undertakes a review of the current government legislation.
The evidence was heard in order to present current knowledge on whether there is a need for changes to be made to ‘Positions of Trust’ within the Sexual Offences Act, 2003 to ensure faith settings are sufficiently within scope to allow young people to be better protected from harm. The evidence will be presented, along with written evidence collect as part of the inquiry, in a report to be published later in the year.
Under the current legislation, it is currently illegal for groups of professionals such as teachers, care workers and youth justice staff to be involved in sexual activity with a 16 or 17-year-old under their supervision. However, other adults who hold similar positions of power within settings such as faith and religious organisations and sports teams, are not covered by the current provisions.
The APPG heard evidence from: Dr Daniel Rhind (Loughborough University); Emily Hilton (NSPCC); Jim Foy (National LADO Network); Jan Murphy (United Reformed Church); and Samuel Barker (Ex-JW Advocates). Questions were posed by: Sarah Champion MP (APPG Co-chair); Baroness Hollins (APPG Vice-chair); Tim Farron MP (APPG Secretary); Justin Humphreys (APPG Secretariat, Thirtyone:eight) and from observers attending the session.
The evidence heard was both informative and highly compelling of the need for a change in the law. Participants spoke of instances where changing the law would have made a significant difference to survivors. Research was also presented on the impact that changing the law could have on pursuing justice in theses cases.