“County Lines: Protecting children from exploitation”
At LET’S TALK we are concerned about school exclusions, seeing them as feeding disaffected and vulnerable young people to predators on the streets. Running drugs from London out into the provinces and further afield is the business of County Lines. Here is a story that makes clear that this ‘business’ is very present, supports drug culture and feeds gang rivalry – all of which plays to knife carrying and crime.
A London drug county line holder trafficked a 15-year-old London boy to Weston-Super-Mare to exploit him as a drugs runner.
The investigation began on 8 January 2021 after the boy was reported missing. Joint enquiries between the Met in London and Avon & Somerset Police located the missing child on 14 January in Weston-Super-Mare. He was in possession of a phone, coach tickets and two ‘g-packs’ (street ready packages) containing crack cocaine and heroin hidden in his underpants.
Forensic analysis identified a suspect’s DNA present on the wrappings for the drugs which led to his arrest.
Detectives searched the address and recovered various mobile phones. One of the mobile phones recovered was a Samsung burner phone which housed the ‘Reece’ County Line and was involved in sending messages advertising the sale of Class A drugs to users based in Weston-Super-Mare. Analysis of other recovered devices showed the suspect was in frequent contact with the boy, including arranging his accommodation and directing his activities as a drugs runner. Further messages showed that he refused to allow the boy to make contact with his family for fear it would alert the police.
Subsequent enquiries identified CCTV showing him in the company of the child victim at Victoria Coach Station on the 23 and 28 December 2020 and 9 January 2021 leading to us establishing the child had been exploited on several previous occasions as a drugs runner.
He was sentenced to 7 years and 2 months following a victimless prosecution involving the Met and Avon & Somerset police. He is also subject to a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act and a ten-year Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order (STPO). The terms of the order include strict conditions on his access to a mobile phone, prevent him from arranging travel or accommodation for any person under the age of 18 except for immediate family members and bar him from travelling to the Avon & Somerset policing area.