Sex crimes committed by adults in positions of trust have more than doubled across the East of England, including Northamptonshire, official figures show.
Since 2014, the number of offences whereby professionals such as teachers, care staff and youth justice workers targeted 16 and 17 year olds, in their care for sex, has risen to 53 in the year to June, up from 20 three years ago.
Figures for Northamptonshire show that three sex offences were committed by adults in a position of trust between June 2015 and June 2016, with statistics doubling to six offences between June 2016 and June 2017.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “It’s hard to believe that the law protects 16 and 17-year-old children from being preyed upon in the classroom, but not on the sports pitch or on the stage.
“We know that some adult youth workers spend years grooming young people and then, as soon as their 16th birthday comes around, they target them for sex.
“Extending Position of Trust laws to sports coaches is an important step in the right direction which will help protect more children from this kind of abuse. But to stop there would be a missed opportunity. Government must close this loophole to protect children from other adults who use their authority to exploit them.”
Nearly 150 crimes were recorded over the period across the eight police force areas which make up the region.
Across England and Wales there was an 82 per cent rise over the four years, with nearly 1,000 abuses of position of trust since 2014.
Position of Trust laws don’t currently apply to other adults working with young people, but in November, the Government announced it plans to extend legislation to cover sports coaches.
The NSPCC’s #TrustToLead campaign is urging Government to go further and extend the law to cover all adults working regularly with children, including religious leaders, adults working in the arts, outdoor pursuits and other activities.
The current loophole means adults with regular and intense contact with children in extra-curricular activities are able to groom them from a young age, and abuse that trusting relationship to have sexual contact as soon as the child turns 16, the NSPCC says.
This is what happened to Lee who was befriended by youth leader, Adam at his church group when he was 15.
Adam and Lee's names have been changed to protect their anonymity.
Adam began texting Lee and asking to spend time together outside of the group.
Lee said: "Adam started by sitting closer to me on the sofa, trailing his finger on to mine. Things which I thought were weird but not big enough to react to."
Things escalated to kissing and sexual contact when Lee turned 16.
He added: "I was so confused but knew what he was doing was wrong. I wanted it to stop but part of me was afraid to speak out because I didn’t want to get him in trouble.
"Looking back now, I realise the level of grooming and manipulation. He purposely made me feel so reliant on him and not being able to talk to anybody about what was happening was making me feel really depressed."