Child sexual abuse has appeared in the news a lot recently and with the Olympics fast approaching, leading sporting bodies have raised concerns that loopholes in the system are leaving children potentially vulnerable to abuse. The Independent Safeguarding Authority has admitted to not being able to share crucial child protection information concerning sexual abuse in sport with sporting bodies, allowing individuals who have been accused of abuse to easily move to a new sport or a new area of the country.

The concerns have arisen after one of British Judo’s leading coaches was involved in abusing five athletes over a period of 33 years. The British Judo Association (BJA) decided that the coach had “manipulated his position, influence and experience for the purposes of his own sexual gratification.” He was found guilty of sexual assault on five individuals, two of whom were under the age of 16 at the time. The ASA and the British Judo Association have called for a central body to be established in order to gather and share information across sporting organisations in an attempt to prevent such situations happening in the future. Others have called for calls for government intervention to decide whether people should need a licence in order to coach sports.

The Amateur Sporting Association (ASA) has stated that if they have excluded a coach there is no way of knowing whether or not that coach has moved on to a different sport. Sporting associations are currently restricted from sharing what they know about individuals due to data protection issues.

In the BJA case, the association would make a referral to the Independent Safeguarding Authority which gathers information in relation to child protection in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The ISA will decide if someone will be banned from working with children and vulnerable adults. The committing of certain crimes leads to an automatic ban, however other crimes are at the authority’s discretion. Recent concerns have centred around the fact that the ISA is not effectively utilising its discretionary powers to ban individuals and failing to tell the organisation making the referral what decision it reaches. The Child Protection in Sport Unit, which was set up by the NSPCC and Sport England, believes that sport organisations have a legitimate right to know that information especially as individuals often move across regions to new jobs.

The ISA also holds information relating to safeguarding concerns which would not lead to criminal prosecutions such as details of coaches having sex with 16 year old athletes. The ISA says that it is currently prevented from passing such information to sporting organisations; despite the fact that these sporting organisations would ban such relationships and would be greatly helped by having information of this nature. The prevalence of sexual abuse in sport has called for changes in the law to facilitate this information sharing on a preventative basis.

Here at Farleys we have a leading sports law department but we are also specialists in processing claims for clients who have been sexually abused. If you have been affected by any of the above issues do not hesitate to get in touch with us to speak to a solicitor in this area.