News – Drugs

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.

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.

28/05/2020: Murdered teen ‘served poorly’ by lack of guidance around county lines victims found away from home area

A teenager killed in January 2019 was “served poorly” by the absence of national guidance around how to deal with criminally exploited children who are found out of their local area, an investigation has concluded. Jaden Moodie, 14, was knocked off a moped in Leyton, East London, and stabbed to death by a group of attackers in an apparent gang dispute. Ayoub Majdouline, 19, was sentenced to at least 21 years in prison last December after being found guilty of Jaden’s murder. Three other men who were with Majdouline at the time remain at large.

28/05/2020: Coronavirus tracked: dark web drug supply surges nearly 500% during covid-19 pandemic

Drug dealers have shifted from street-level dealing to online sales during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research. Listings for illegal drugs on the dark web – a hidden section of the internet that is only accessible with specialist software – surged by 495 per cent in recent months, as lockdowns forced dealers to seek alternative ways of distributing their products.

25/04/2020: Coronavirus: ‘2m children face heightened lockdown risk’

Around two million children in England face a range of vulnerabilities likely to worsen during the Covid-19 crisis, says the Children’s Commissioner. A report for her office has mapped out, by local area, the vast challenges faced by the schools and councils supporting them in lockdown. The risks range from mentally ill parents and substance abuse, to cramped housing and domestic abuse. The government said vulnerable children were its first priority.

20/04/2020: County lines drug dealers ‘stick out like a sore thumb’ during lockdown, say police

The coronavirus pandemic could provide an unexpected opportunity for police forces to tackle county lines drug dealing as the lockdown means criminals “stick out like a sore thumb”, senior officers have said. They said a reduction in street crime such as assaults and burglary had also allowed police more time to be proactive in focusing on the issue.

19/04/2020: Cocaine dealers triple prices as supply runs out due to lockdown

Cocaine dealers have tripled the price of their product since lockdown started in the UK, leaving many addicts desperate to kick the habit. Support group Cocaine Anonymous warns that an epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse is just round the corner as lockdown turns every day into a weekend. But many others want to kick their expensive habits, and as Covid-19 began to spread Cocaine Anonymous moved their meetings into cyberspace.

01/03/2020: Drugs are now killing twice as many people as car crashes thanks to a rise in ‘woke coke’ middle-class cocaine users

Britons are now twice as likely to die from drugs than a road accident, a police chief revealed yesterday. The shocking fact lays bare the scale of the drug menace gripping the country. It was revealed by top police officer Andy Cooke. He also told how drug dealers are peddling ‘woke coke’, attracting middle-class users with the claim that drugs are ‘ethically-sourced’ and ‘no-one had been harmed in the production of this cocaine’.

29/02/2020: Children coerced into drug trafficking face cycle of exploitation due to failings in system, warns slavery tsar

Children who have been coerced into county lines activity are facing a cycle of exploitation because the current mechanisms in place to protect them are not working, the UK’s anti-slavery tsar has said. Dame Sara Thornton, who was a police chief before taking up the independent anti-slavery commissioner post in May 2019, said Britain’s system for identifying and protecting youngsters who have been groomed and coerced into trafficking drugs should be taken out of the Home Office and devolved to a local level in order to curb the soaring number of cases.

27/02/2020: County lines child victims ‘are treated as criminals’: Watchdog says more should be done to protect children who have been ensnared by gangsters to work in drugs trade

Too many child victims of county lines drugs gangs are being treated as criminals by the police, a watchdog warns today. Vulnerable children are being prosecuted despite ‘clear evidence’, in some cases, that they have been ensnared by gangsters to work in the violent drugs trade, it said. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services concluded: ‘Too many children are being criminalised when they shouldn’t be.’

26/02/2020: Police call for more help to deal with ‘county lines’ drug gangs

The persistence of “county lines” drug dealers means that some police forces don’t have the resources they need to tackle the networks operating in their communities. The growth in the exploitative trade that sees organised gangs moving drugs out of urban areas to smaller towns or villages has reached the point where there are an estimated 2,000 identifiable lines in the country.

13/02/2020: County lines drugs gangs threat prompts university to act

The possibility of county lines gangs infiltrating universities has become a “genuine consideration”, according to one head of student services. It comes after three incidents in Bangor, where suspected dealers claimed to be students when challenged, despite no connections to Bangor University.

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