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Safeguarding investigations: what coaches need to know

Gateley Legal

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The continued media storm surrounding individual coaches facing safeguarding investigations does not seem to be fading. We are still seeing individual coaches in the football, gymnastics, rugby, cricket and martial arts sectors being subjected to safeguarding investigations following disclosures that usually involve immediate suspension. 

It can be an isolating and frustrating time for a coach, especially as they are usually initially unaware of the allegations they face. The key to any safeguarding investigation is to understand the process and to have the right support in place. 

Frequently asked questions by coaches under investigation 

How long can a safeguarding investigation take? 

Unfortunately, safeguarding investigations can take a while, particularly if external agencies such as the police or LADO are involved. There is usually a duty on the NGB or GB to act fairly and expeditiously but coaches ought to be prepared for investigations to take a number of months.

What is the funding position for safeguarding investigations? 

The common position is that insurance policies (NGB, home, credit cards, car, personal) do not provide any legal expenses cover in respect of regulatory safeguarding investigations. However, some policies may have the benefit of legal expenses cover so it is always worth checking. If you are asked to participate in a police interview you may be eligible for legal aid, but it is often the case that most legal expenses in relation to safeguarding investigations will need to be privately funded.

What does the investigating authority have to tell me? 

Investigating authorities such as National and non-National Governing Bodies usually have a policy in place to protect the identity of the person making a safeguarding disclosure. Subject Access Requests can be made to discover what information the NGB or GB holds about you but be prepared for safeguarding allegations to remain confidential and anonymous. The NGB or GB should also protect a coach’s anonymity during an ongoing safeguarding investigation, this includes information released to the media. 

Do I have more rights as an employed coach?

Employees who have been employed for a period of over two years will be afforded greater rights than affiliated coaches or volunteers or those who are self-employed as unfair dismissal claims can be brought. Employees are also more likely to have some provision in their contract for payment provisions during a period of suspension. 

Can I be legally represented at a safeguarding investigation hearing?

Representations can be made to the NGB or GB for legal representation at any safeguarding investigation panel. If you are investigated in relation to safeguarding obtain immediate legal advice before you agree to any form of interview process. If the NGB or GB refers matters to the police and a criminal investigation is initiated, you are entitled to legal representation at a voluntary or compulsory police interview.

How can I protect myself against a safeguarding investigation? 

Anyone can make a safeguarding allegation so on that basis it is important to: regularly refresh your safeguarding training; keep records of all of the training you have undertaken; make sure those working with you have appropriate safeguarding training; and make sure you understand your sport’s safeguarding policy and processes and have access to key safeguarding documentation. 

Our safeguarding team comprises specialists from our Regulatory, Employment, Commercial and Reputational Management teams. The team has first-hand experience in delivering specialist safeguarding training, developing safeguarding systems and documents for organisations and managing crisis safeguarding investigations when disclosures are made.

Safeguarding Toolkit

To assist organisations in ensuring they are fulfilling their safeguarding requirements we have developed a “Safeguarding Toolkit”. Get in touch with our experts or visit our safeguarding page to find out more.

Gateley Plc is authorised and regulated by the SRA (Solicitors' Regulation Authority). Please visit the SRA website for details of the professional conduct rules which Gateley Legal must comply with.

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