Sexual abuse safeguarding laws extended to places of worship

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Sexual abuse safeguarding laws extended to places of worship

Jewish campaigners welcome move with Chief Rabbi Mirvis says 'nothing could be more vital than keeping young people in our communities safe and the closing of this loophole'

Jack Mendel is the Online Editor at the Jewish News.

Synagogue (Photo by Lainie Berger on Unsplash)
Synagogue (Photo by Lainie Berger on Unsplash)

Campaigners for Jewish victims of sexual abuse have welcomed changes to child abuse laws announced in Parliament this week.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill closes a legal loophole under so-called position of trust laws, to cover religious leaders.

The law, which already applied to teachers and doctors, makes sexual relationships between people in these roles, and those they supervise, illegal.

“The move follows an extensive review which raised concerns that predators could exploit the particular influence these roles can often have in a young person’s life – making them vulnerable to abuse”, the government’s website says.

The move to extend the law to religious leaders was welcomed by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who said: “Sadly, wherever relationships of trust exist, there follows the danger for those relationships to be exploited in the most destructive way. Nothing could be more vital than keeping young people in our communities safe and the closing of this loophole, as recommended by the Independent Inquiry in Child Sexual Abuse, sends an important message in that regard.”

Reform Judaism welcomed the move, with Rabbi Celia Surget, Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis and Cantors UK, saying: “We are absolutely in support of the widening of the laws outlined in this new legislation”.

“We welcome it wholeheartedly and look forward to seeing its implementation at the earliest possible time”.

This comes after the government stepped in last week to protect victims of religious divorce, trapped by abusive husbands who refuse to grant a ‘get.’

Yehudis Goldsobel, who in 2013 established Migdal Emunah, a charity that supports victims of sexual abuse, backed the “exciting and welcome change to legislation. Over the years I have had the privilege to work with colleagues from other faiths in advocating for more robust safeguarding in faith and religious organisations.”

This is a first step towards better safeguarding standards and I look forward to further recommendations being implemented in the near future. I am optimistic to see the recommendations from IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse) in their final report.”

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