Definitions of Abuse & Poor Practice

It is not your role to diagnose or define what is abuse or neglect but it is yours and everyone else’s responsibility to do whatever is necessary to ensure that any matters of concern are referred to the correct people to be dealt with in accordance with this policy. If the nature of the case makes this difficult then you should consider the organisation’s whistle-blowing policy.

Poor Practice

In many circumstances, a concern may relate to poor practice where the behaviour of a coach or other person may be causing distress to a child or young person. Relating to this policy, poor practice is any behaviour that conflicts the standards established in the Angling Trust Code of Conduct or which infringes an individual’s rights. Any behaviour causing abuse or harm that fails to fulfill the duty of care should be regarded as possible signs of abuse or harm and reported following the correct procedures.

Examples of poor practice in angling include:

  • use of any physical or humiliating punishments.
  • failure to act when you witness possible abuse or bullying.
  • being unaware of or breaching Angling Trust Codes of Conduct.
  • spending excessive amounts of time alone with young people when coaching.
  • allowing any form of inappropriate touching.
  • allowing young people to use inappropriate language unchallenged.
  • making sexually suggestive comments even in fun.
  • reducing a person to tears as a form of control.
  • allowing allegations made by a young person to go unchallenged or not acted upon.
  • leaving a young angler unaccompanied on the water’s edge for prolonged periods.
  • doing things of a personal nature that young people can do for themselves.
  • sharing a bedroom with a young person you are not related to even with parental consent.

What is Abuse?

Somebody may abuse a young angler by inflicting harm or by failing to prevent harm. Commonly abuse is committed by somebody known to the child, including members of their family. They may also be abused in community or sport settings including angling clubs.

The effects of abuse can be extremely damaging and if untreated, they may follow a person into adulthood. For example, a person who has been abused as a child may find it difficult or impossible to maintain stable, trusting relationships, become involved with drugs or prostitution or attempt suicide. On the other hand, possibly with help and support, many young people are able to move on with their lives and to deal with the after-effects of their experiences.


The definitions below are taken from Working Together to Safeguard Children – A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children Department for Education (2013). In addition, examples of how these concerns may arise within angling activities are given.

Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment of a child.  Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm.  Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting, by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger for example or through the Internet.  Children may be abused by an adult or adults or another child or children.

Physical abuse – Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child.  Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces, illness in a child.

Examples of physical abuse in angling could be handling a child deliberately roughly or hitting a child as a means of control or punishment.

Emotional abuse – Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development.  It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may include not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate.  It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction.  It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying (including cyber-bullying), causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children.  Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

Examples of emotional abuse in angling could be repeatedly humiliating or belittling a child when they lose a fish or setting them tasks such as casting distances that are above their age and ability and making them feel worthless when they fail.

Sexual abuse – Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening.  The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing.  They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).  Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.

Examples of sexual abuse in angling could be a coach developing a sexual relationship with a young person, touching a young person in a sexually inappropriate way or targeting a child through text or social networking in order to form an inappropriate relationship with them.

Neglect – Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development.  Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse.  Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to: –

  • provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment)
  • protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger
  • ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate caregivers), or
  • ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.
  • It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.

Examples of this in angling could include making young anglers continue to fish in severe weather conditions when they have no appropriate clothing to protect them.


Bullying is the most frequently reported causes of abuse or harm for children and young people and you may find that you observe situations where a young person appears to be being bullied.

Every child has the right to participate in angling free from the fear of bullying. Bullying can be described as deliberately hurtful behaviour, usually repeated over time where those being bullied find it difficult to defend themselves.

Bullying has the potential to cause permanent harm (physical, emotional or psychological). Fisheries and clubs should take steps to prevent bullying behaviour wherever possible and respond to incidents when they occur. A preventative approach means that sport is playing its part to create an environment and society in which people treat each other with respect.

Bullying can be seen to include:

Verbal: including name calling, teasing, threatening, rumours, sarcasm, racial taunts, homophobic bullying, graffiti and gestures.

Physical: hitting, kicking, punching, spitting, stealing/breaking belongings.

Emotional: ignoring, hurtful emails/texts, exclusion from activity, tormenting, ridiculing, humiliating.

Anyone can be the target of bullying, however in general victims are typically shy, sensitive and perhaps anxious or insecure. Sometimes they are singled out for physical reasons – being overweight, physically small, having a disability or belonging to a different race, faith or culture.

Bullies come from all walks of life; they bully for a variety of different reasons and may even have been bullied or abused themselves. Typically, bullies can have low self-esteem, be excitable, aggressive or jealous. Crucially, they have learned how to gain power over others.

Signs and Indicators of Abuse

Indications that a young person may be being abused whilst attending angling activities or events may include the following:

  • unexplained or suspicious injuries such as bruising, cuts or burns, particularly if situated on a part of the body not normally prone to such injuries.
  • an injury for which the explanation seems inconsistent.
  • the young person describes what appears to be an abusive act involving him/her.
  • someone else (a young person or adult) expresses concern about the welfare of another.
  • unexplained changes in behaviour (e.g. becoming very quiet, withdrawn or displaying sudden outbursts of temper).
  • inappropriate sexual awareness.
  • engaging in sexually explicit behaviour.
  • sudden or unusual distrust of adults, particularly those with whom a close relationship would normally be expected.
  • having difficulty in making friends.
  • being prevented from socialising with other young people.
  • displaying variations in eating patterns including overeating or loss of appetite; or a sudden weight change.
  • becoming increasingly dirty or unkempt.

It should be recognised that this list is not exhaustive and the presence of one or more of the indicators is not proof that abuse is actually taking place. A good working relationship with parent/guardians will help to identify any other concerns that a young person may be experiencing, e.g. a family bereavement, which could cause some of the changes listed above.

Remember it is not the responsibility of those working in angling to decide if child abuse is occurring, but it is their responsibility to act on any concerns by reporting them.

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