Police blast middle-class cocaine users for ‘fuelling child sex abuse‘ of county lines drug gangs 

Police blast middle-class cocaine users for ‘fuelling child sex abuse‘ by supporting county lines drug gangs

For a growing number of people in middle-class suburbs, taking cocaine is considered an innocent way to unwind.

But officers on the front line of the battle against county lines drug trafficking say these users are complicit in the sexual exploitation of children.

For today police reveal that thousands of youngsters dragged into the evil trade are forced to ferry drugs that have been inserted inside their bodies – a practice experts say is sexual abuse.

In Britain‘s Child Drug Runners, a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary to be broadcast this week, Katy Harris, lead analyst at the South East Regional Crime Unit, says: ‘If a person is putting drug wraps into a child‘s anal cavity, that‘s child sexual abuse.

‘I think a lot of people just don‘t want to think about that. You might have someone who buys Fair trade bananas and works really hard to buy organic… but at the same time could be buying powder or crack cocaine from a county line which has involved the plugging of a child, which is child sexual abuse.

‘Usually it does require an additional person to do it. They will put [in] multiple wraps… and it‘s not something that‘s easy to do. And you have to be shown how to do it… so there is child sexual abuse.‘

In another blunt message referring to the manner in which packages of Class A drugs are transported, she adds: ‘It‘s something that we would encourage users to think about that over 90 per cent of the drugs that people are consuming has got faecal matter on it.‘ 

Those tasked with combating county lines – now estimated to hold up to 50,000 children in its evil grip – hope the stark warning will shock drug users who have so far proved immune to pleas that they are funding crime and fuelling soaring violent crime. 

Drug barons have expanded beyond city squalor to the grooming of middle-class children from rural market towns and public schools (stock image)

In March, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick agreed with the suggestion that middle class recreational drug users had ‘blood on their hands‘, adding: ‘There is this challenge that there are a whole group of middle-class… people who will sit round… happily think about global warming and Fair trade, and environmental protection and all sorts of things, organic food, but think there is no harm in taking a bit of cocaine. Well, there is; there‘s misery throughout the supply chain.‘

A month later, Sajid Javid, the then Home Secretary and now Chancellor, accused middle-class users of being a key part of the drug problem. 

‘They may never set foot in a deprived area,‘ he said.

‘They may never see an act of serious violence, but their illicit habits are adding fuel to the fire that is engulfing our communities.‘

According to the latest official figures, a record 1.3 million people took Class A drugs in 2018-19.

Statistics from last year revealed 3.4 per cent of people in households with an income of £50,000 had used cocaine in the previous year and 5.8 per cent of those in areas described by the Office for National Statistics as ‘cosmopolitan‘ took the drug.

With cocaine use in Britain doubling in the past five years, drug barons have expanded far beyond big city squalor to the grooming of middle-class children from rural market towns and public schools.

The human misery is out of sight for the well-heeled users, but all too apparent to those dealing with the aftermath.

Custody Sergeant Steve Clark at Thames Valley Police, for example, has the unenviable job of helping to retrieve the drugs from youngsters after they have been detained. ‘If the drugs burst, they‘ve got very little time to live. It‘s really high risk, really dangerous,‘ he says.

He recalls a young girl who was in his custody suite the previous week. 

‘Her first words were, “There‘s a Kinder Egg inside me that‘s burst”… Because that‘s a medical emergency she was sent to the search room and we called an ambulance. She still had another Kinder Egg which she said she could feel was opening.‘

The difficulties facing parents, police and social services are illustrated by the case of Emily, a 16-year-old found at a house in Oxford with two older men known to be involved in county lines.

The homeowner is a vulnerable man who had been pressured into allowing drugs to be sold from his property in a practice known as ‘cuckooing‘. Emily is taken into protective custody but police and social workers know that if she is returned to her mother who lives near the ‘cuckooed‘ house, it is likely she will go back there.

Her father, who lives in another county, is called and collects her, only for the youngster to leap from his car when he slows at a roundabout. She is soon picked up by police, but social workers have no option but to send her to a residential care unit in a different county.

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The programme exposes how dealers are lured by the supposedly glamorous images of bling portrayed on social media or drill rap videos. ‘They show large amounts of money… expensive designer properties, and a really kind of high-class lifestyle,‘ says Ms Harris. ‘The reality is, destitute crack houses in terrible conditions – not eating, not washing, not sleeping and being under extreme stress.‘

Assistant Chief Constable Tim De Meyer from Thames Valley Police says that county lines drug lords, like any businessmen, are always looking to expand and will actively target middle-class children, perhaps even those of well-heeled adults who are cocaine consumers.

‘If you‘re an organised criminal running a county line network and you want to establish your drug dealing in a new area, perhaps among public school children or in a very middle-class area, you‘re going to be looking at the people can blend into the area and have established relationships,‘ he says.

The force‘s Deputy Chief Constable Jason Hogg says the evil of drugs leaves many casualties.

‘Purchasing and taking drugs is not a victimless crime,‘ he adds. ‘There are a string of victims who are being exploited by criminal gangs, who have been sexually abused, who are being stabbed or being murdered – all directly because good people with jobs are buying drugs and taking them at the weekend. That is the reality.‘

Britain’s Child Drug Runners is on Wednesday, November 13, at 10pm on Channel 4 

 

Jacob (pictured as a boy) died when he was 16 years old at the family home in Banbury, Oxfordshire, after becoming ensnared by county lines drug dealers

‘Once a gang has your child there‘s nothing you can do‘

A mother whose 16-year-old son died after becoming ensnared by county lines drug dealers believes that tougher action from the criminal justice system might have saved his life.

Karla, 44, a single mother whose son Jacob died this year at their home in Banbury, Oxfordshire, last night told The Mail on Sunday: ‘They need to be stricter on them when they are younger.

‘Our house was raided by police and more than one knife was found, but nothing happened to Jacob. The kids have to realise there are consequences.‘

Social services were heavily involved in Jacob‘s case and he was placed in residential care 12 months ago in an effort to keep him away from the drugs gangs.

Within days of returning home, however, the then 15-year-old was back in their clutches and dealing heroin and cocaine. ‘He sat there and his exact words to me were, “I can do what the f*** I like until I‘m 18 because the law can‘t touch me,”‘ his mother explains.

It appears he had a point. As his mother says: ‘Obviously I didn‘t want him to get into trouble, but there was no consequence to what was going on and his confidence grew and the behaviour got worse.

‘With under-18s, it‘s very difficult because [the authorities] don‘t like to criminalise them. I understand that to a certain degree, but I think you‘re just creating a monster at 18.‘

Karla, who has asked for her surname not to be published, is reluctant to criticise the police because she appreciates how hard they and social services worked to help her son.

But she believes that a tougher approach combined with more resources for police, social services and youth services may prevent other youngsters falling foul of county lines dealers. She recounts her son‘s transformation first from victim to perpetrator and then to becoming a grim statistic after being found dead at home earlier this year.

Karla, a care-home worker, believes his death was a cry for help gone wrong because he had fallen thousands of pounds in debt to dealers further up the chain.

A fortnight before his death, his face was slashed in circumstances which are still not clear.

‘This isn‘t a big rough city, it‘s a little market town and it doesn‘t matter if you‘re a single mum or married, if they get hold of your kid, there‘s nothing you can do,‘ she says. 

‘I didn‘t even know what county lines was until he got embroiled in it and I spoke to social services and the police.

‘Jacob had two phones. One I didn‘t initially know about and it would be going off throughout the evening and he‘d be in and out for short spells. It became obvious what he was doing, but there was no way I could stop it.‘

Karla thinks the knife crime epidemic plaguing Britain is also caused by the same lack of early intervention. 

‘Jacob was caught with a knife more than once and nothing happened,‘ she says. 

‘If there was more of a deterrent, maybe they might think twice.‘  

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