Sexual relations between coaches and under-18s 'should be illegal'

A male coach holds the ankle of a female athlete Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption "Megan" first met the sports coach in her early teens, and they began a secret "relationship" when she was 17

"When I was 16, we started messaging a bit more and it wasn't just the sport. I was quite naive and vulnerable."

Megan - not her real name - says she was 17 when she first kissed her sports coach, an older man who had acted as a guardian on trips away and was someone her parents trusted "implicitly".

While it is illegal for teachers and care workers to have sexual relations with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care, this does not apply to sports coaches.

Campaigners want this to be changed.

They have accused the UK government of "backtracking" on proposals announced in 2017 to add coaches to the list of professions covered by the law designed to prevent the abuse of positions of trust.

The Ministry of Justice said it continued to keep the law under review.

Megan was in her early teens when she first met the man she later accused of taking advantage of her.

As she began competing at a higher level she trained seven days a week. She said she often found herself unexpectedly alone during sessions with her coach.

'Big age difference'

"I thought everyone was having individual sessions but in fact it was just me. He told the others that training was cancelled so we could have training by ourselves," Megan said.

She said her coach had her phone number to arrange training sessions and meetings.

When she was 16 - the standard age of consent - he began asking her personal questions about her sex life.

Megan said they kissed after a night out and had several more intimate encounters in his car when he gave her a lift, making her feel like they were "in a relationship".

"It was a secret so I felt like we had to delete all of our messages," she said.

"It didn't feel nice to keep it a secret because I felt like I was lying. There were a lot of feelings of guilt involved."

Megan said the relationship continued until she "realised what a big age difference there was" and broke it off.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption "He's just got away with it... it was very upsetting"

She said she finally told her parents who were "devastated" and reported it to the police.

The coach - who disputed her account and denied any wrongdoing - was arrested and bailed, but the matter was dropped by police as no criminal offence was deemed to have been committed.

"He's just got away with it… it was very upsetting," Megan added.

Position of trust

Des Mannion, the national head of service for NSPCC Wales, said the law as it stands "isn't adequate".

"We know there are individuals who are wronged but have no redress," he said.

Mr Mannion said he was calling for the UK government to introduce legislation to protect all children and young people, not just when they are in a classroom.

"We're talking about a power relationship where an older adult has a position of trust and power over a young person," he said.

"We know that individuals who have a sexual interest in children will seek positions of power and influence so they can offend against them."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Megan considered quitting her sport

The Ministry of Justice said it remained "absolutely committed to protecting children and young people from sexual abuse".

"We already have a wide range of criminal offences under which to prosecute and sentence those who carry out such acts," a spokesman said.

For Megan, the relationship left her feeling her beloved sport had been "ruined".

She considered quitting but is working hard to get back on track.

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