I was delighted this week that as Justice ministers we announced measures to protect young people who fall victim to sexual predators working as sports coaches and faith leaders.
We have tabled new laws in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to prohibit those in a position of trust engaging in sexual activity with a child in their care.
At present, it is illegal for those on a “positions of trust” list to engage in sexual activity with under-18s. That list includes teachers, care workers and doctors. However, sports coaches and faith leaders were deliberately left off by the Government in 2003.
That was a mistake.
As Cheltenham’s MP I have heard from constituents about this, and in the past wrote to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse to call on them to consider allegations about historic abuse by faith leaders. I have also listened to concerns from sports governing bodies, including British Gymnastics, Swim England and British Athletics, about the risk posed by sexual predators like Barry Bennell, who used his position of trust as a sports coach to abuse young players in his care.
Sport should be a wholly positive experience. These laws draw a clear line in the sand that coaches must not have relationships with children they have a position of authority over, whether that's in a pool, on a pitch or a court.
I’m delighted that position has been welcomed by the NSPCC.
On a personal note, I have been asked by the Prime Minister to become the Prisons and Probation Minister within the MOJ. Prisons is an area that Cheltenham MPs have long focused. My Conservative predecessor, Sir Charles Irving, was a notable campaigner. For my part, I will focus on capacity, security and education – and seeking out what Winston Churchill memorably referred to as “the treasure in the heart of every man”.