DDN Oct_2022 Octoober 2022 | Page 4


Police need better training on child slavery and exploitation

More needs to be done to keep children involved in county lines activity away from the criminal gangs exploiting them , according to a report by criminal justice consultancy Crest Advisory . Agencies were frequently missing opportunities to respond to ‘ red flags ’ indicating that young people were at risk of child criminal exploitation ( CCE ), it says .

The report includes in-depth analysis of the cases of 13 boys , based on police records , local intelligence and interviews with staff at support agencies . Common features in the boys ’ lives included domestic abuse , drug misuse and periods where they ’ d gone missing , along with missed opportunities to stop them being drawn into gangs .
The document is calling for a new approach , including updated police training on child trafficking , modern slavery and spotting the signs of CCE . The Crown Prosecution Service ( CPS ) needs to work more closely with the police on suspected CCE cases , it says , while local authority children ’ s
services and other agencies also need to take more account of CCE in their adolescent risk strategies . ‘ Young people who spend longer periods missing from home are more likely to be involved in gangs or carry out crimes with adults ,’ it says , and should be considered at heightened risk . One of the case studies , ‘ John ’, had gone missing almost 100 times between the ages of 12 and 15 . The report also calls for an end to the practice of ‘ exile ’, where young people are placed in care long distances from where they live , and states that the National Referral Mechanism ( NRM ) for supporting modern slavery victims is failing children .
Young people involved in county lines are increasingly being recognised as potential victims of exploitation rather than simply as gang members or drug dealers , the report acknowledges , but states that the response from authorities is often of ‘ poor quality ’ and leaves them vulnerable to further exploitation and harm . Some – known as ‘ alpha victims ’ by police – may go on to groom and
exploit others , while most county lines cases are also characterised by absence of clear evidence or disclosures by the young people themselves through fear of reprisals .
Research last year by the University of Nottingham found that county lines activity involved increasing levels of extreme violence and sexual exploitation , including rape ( DDN , July / August 2021 , page 5 ).
‘ The criminal justice system is characterised by a binary approach to individuals as either victim or offender ,’ said former anti-slavery commissioner , Dame Sara Thornton , in her foreword to the report . ‘ The challenge of county lines drug dealing is that individuals may be found offending but are , in reality , victims . This report illustrates how difficult it can be to make that judgement and the absence of clear guidance for front line staff exacerbates that difficulty .’
The government recently announced extra funding to help young people escape from county lines gangs , as well as a specialist
‘ The criminal justice system is characterised by a binary approach to individuals as either victim or offender .’
support service delivered by not-forprofit organisation Catch22 . Report at www . crestadvisory . com
nottingham . ac . uk

Global drug executions up by more than 300 per cent

MORE THAN 130 PEOPLE were executed for drug offences last year , an increase of 336 per cent on the figure for 2020 , according to Harm Reduction International ( HRI ). However , censorship and severe lack of transparency mean it is ‘ imperative to note that this number is likely to represent only a fraction of all drug-related executions carried out globally ’, HRI states .
There were also almost 240 death sentences reported across 16 countries , an 11 per cent increase on the previous year , says Death penalty for drug offences : global overview 2021 . Around a tenth of known death sentences for drug offences are handed to foreign nationals , which brings ‘ a host of fair trial and human rights concerns ’, says HRI .
‘ High application ’ states for imposing the death penalty for drugs offences include China , Indonesia , Iran , Malaysia , North Korea , Saudi Arabia , Singapore and Vietnam , although no one was executed in Singapore for the second year in a row and no one in Indonesia for the fifth in a row . Saudi Arabia also declared a moratorium on drugrelated executions last year , meaning that none were carried out for the first time in a decade .
However , a ‘ sudden increase ’ in executions was noted in Iran .
China and Iran are among the ‘ most opaque ’ countries regarding the death penalty , the document states , with the information classified as a state secret in the former , as it is
in Vietnam . Information regarding North Korea is ‘ virtually impossible to obtain ’, the report adds . Document at www . hri . global / deathpenalty-2021