03 Jan News – Drugs
08/04/2021: ifth of UK victims of criminal exploitation are children, research reveals
At least one in five victims of criminal exploitation by drugs gangs in the UK are children, analysis of calls to a modern slavery and exploitation helpline shows. Research into calls to the charity Unseen’s modern slavery and exploitation helpline has shown that more than a fifth (22 per cent) of calls from potential victims of drugs gangs are minors.
29/03/2021: Doctors warn against cuts to youth drug and alcohol treatment
Cuts to addiction services for young people with drug and alcohol problems in England mean many are missing out on specialist help, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It says eight out of nine regions in England have made real terms reductions in funding since 2014, and 37% overall. The situation has only been made worse by the pandemic, which has badly disrupted services.
28/03/2021: County lines gangs have changed tactics during COVID – and their victims are getting even younger
“During lockdown I didn’t want to be at home. I was always fighting with my parents. I went out all the time to avoid them. I was bored and lonely.” The words of 14-year-old Alisha (name changed to protect identity) from Staffordshire might sound familiar to teenagers across the country who have grappled with successive coronavirus lockdowns throughout the past year. But for Alisha, the restrictions and her subsequent deteriorating mental health forced her down a darker path. Within months, she was being exploited by a local county lines gang.
18/02/2021: Revised Drugs Sentencing Guidelines from the Sentencing Council – clear reminder to Sentencers of racial disparity in sentences
The sentencing council published its revised sentencing guidelines relating to drug sentencing on 27th January 2021. This new guidance applies to the existing drug sentencing guidelines. This revision was made in view of legislative changes and considering how drug related offending has changed and increased in severity, including the prevalence of CCE and recognition of racial disparity in sentencing. These new guidelines come into effect on 1 April 2021.
10/02/2021: One in 10 teens in UK has tried hard drugs
Among 17-year-olds in the UK, one in 10 will have used hard drugs, such as ketamine and cocaine, a study suggests. The University College London research also showed nearly a third of 17-year-olds had tried cannabis and more than half admitted to binge-drinking alcohol. Almost 20,000 young people, born between 2000 and 2002, were surveyed as part of the Millennium Cohort Study. Drug-use rates were higher among white teens than black teens.
06/02/2021: Why was ‘failed’ teenager Jacob not in school for two years?
Jacob was found dead in his bedroom in April 2019. The 16-year-old boy had been groomed and plunged into a world of drug trafficking by so-called “county lines” gangs. Major failures by the authorities in Oxfordshire have recently been exposed, including one glaring fact, he had not been enrolled in a school or provided any type of education for 21 months during which time he fell into a life of crime.
06/02/2021: Still not safe
This report shows that the vast majority of Local Authorities do not have a sufficient grip on the drivers for youth violence in their areas, nor do they have a cogent strategy to reduce risk factors in vulnerable cohorts. Most were not tracking local school exclusions – widely acknowledged as a trigger for a significant escalation of risk for children. Drug misuse is also a key risk factor for gang exploitation, however the numbers of children accessing drug treatment has fallen by 41% nationally.
01/02/2021: Best practice: tackling County Lines
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation has just published a new report in their “Academic Insights” series looking at best practice in relation to County Lines drug dealing. The report was produced by Professor John Pitts and highlights how County Lines operations have moved to the country and expanded over recent years. As all police forces now know County Lines are criminal networks based mainly in cities that export illegal drugs to one or more out-of-town locations. The organisers use dedicated mobile phone lines to take orders from buyers, and children and vulnerable adults to transport, store and deliver the drugs. County Lines organisers may use coercion, intimidation and violence (including sexual violence) to control this workforce.
14/10/2020: Laughing gas ‘can cause paralysis’, warns Wales’ top doctor
Laughing gas is “not just a bit of harmless fun” and can cause paralysis, Wales’ chief medical officer has warned. Nitrous oxide – as it is also known – is the second most commonly used recreational drug in the UK after cannabis for those aged 16-24. Chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton said the costs of misuse can be “astronomical”. “We see people who are no longer able to walk or use their arms or legs.”
05/10/2020: Police issue urgent drugs warning after four young people die over weekend
An urgent drugs warning has been issued by police after the deaths of four young people in the North East over the weekend. Drugs were suspected to have contributed to the deaths of two 18-year-old women and a 21-year-old man in Newcastle, as well as an 18-year-old man in Washington, Northumbria Police said. Post-mortems are due to take place, but the force wants to warn the public about the dangers of taking drugs.
23/09/2020: Dark web drugs raid leads to 179 arrests
Police forces around the world have seized more than $6.5m (£5m) in cash and virtual currencies, as well as drugs and guns in a co-ordinated raid on dark web marketplaces. Some 179 people were arrested across Europe and the US, and 500kg (1,102lb) of drugs and 64 guns confiscated. It ends the “golden age” of these underground marketplaces, Europol said. “The hidden internet is no longer hidden”, said Edvardas Sileris, head of Europol’s cyber-crime centre.
18/09/2020: Exploitation by county lines gangs increased during lockdown, government figures show
An increase in exploitation by county lines gangs during lockdown has seen the number of potential child victims of criminal exploitation overtake adults for the first time, government figures show. The most recent modern slavery statistics, published by the Home Office, show a five per cent drop in overall referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) during lockdown compared with the same four months (April – June) the previous year.
28/08/2020: Children exploited by gangs in lockdown ‘most at risk of exclusion’ in September
Fears of a spike in exclusions as schools reopen in September could “disproportionately impact” children exploited by county lines drugs gangs during lockdown, a children’s legal charity has warned. Just for Kids Law is calling for schools to change their approach to child criminal exploitation so that it “always focuses on doing everything possible to safeguard and protect a child” amid fears of a spike in exclusions from next week.
07/08/2020: When to call the police: Guidance for schools & colleges (NPCC)
This advice is for school and college staff with responsibility for behaviour management, including designated safeguarding leads (DSLs), their deputies, head teachers and senior leadership teams in schools and colleges in England. This advice covers incidents on school and college premises where students have potentially committed a crime. It provides guidance on what schools and colleges should bear in mind when considering contacting the police.
16/07/2020: Charity receives Home Office funding to expand county lines service
The Home Office is providing £860,000 in 2020/21 for the service to be run by St Giles Trust, a charity that has led the way in providing specialist support for young people and their families affected by county lines activity. The money pledged is part of a wider £25m investment by the government to tackle county lines gangs, a form of organised crime where vulnerable young people are coerced to transporting and selling drugs in towns across the UK.
05/07/2020: County lines gangs disguised drug couriers as key workers during coronavirus lockdown
Criminal gangs have been dressing young drug mules as nurses and Deliveroo workers to deliver cocaine, heroin and illegally acquired prescription drugs during lockdown, according to a senior officer in charge of tackling county lines dealing at one of the UK’s biggest police forces. Supt Andy O’Connor of Merseyside police said Liverpool drug lords forced to return home during lockdown were operating a “click and collect” service for couriers disguised as key workers to travel in and out of the region with drugs.
18/06/2020: Experts call for action as telltale silver canisters from laughing gas use litter our parks in lockdown
Ministers have been told to clamp down on the dangerous ‘hippy crack’ craze which is booming during the lockdown. Thousands of bored and frustrated teenagers are said to have started abusing the drug in recent weeks, leaving the nation’s parks and streets littered with silver canisters. Nitrous oxide or laughing gas – also known as ‘hippy crack’ – is used as an anaesthetic by dentists and during childbirth.
09/06/2020: ‘I wasn’t a gangster, just a kid from Shropshire’: how drugs gangs are exploiting lockdown
My team is seeing ever-younger children being recruited to county lines drugs trade during the pandemic. Ever since he was a little kid, 16-year-old Adam* loved gangster movies. The glamour of the lifestyle – the money, the cars, the respect – all appealed to him. When a gang from a nearby city expanded its drug-selling operation to his neighbourhood, it sucked him in by promising to make those dreams come true. But the reality was very different.
03/06/2020: County lines gangs ‘adapting’ to Covid-19 lockdown, new report warns
County lines gangs have adapted to Covid-19, changing locations and grooming new recruits, a report by the National Youth Agency (NYA) warns. Frontline youth workers have shared concerns as part of the “Hidden in Plain Sight” report, which include fears that the closure of many diversionary projects and specialist services aimed at helping young people exit gangs safely could lead to an increase in young people coerced into criminal activity.