We are currently experiencing network problems with the desktop version of Police Oracle. We hope to have these resolved as soon as possible.

We see children as victims says BTP County Lines taskforce lead

In an interview with Police Oracle, BTP County Lines taskforce lead Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams spoke about the importance of safeguarding the young people who are caught up in county lines activity.

“Of the young people that we have safeguarded, we've only charged about 20 per cent. So four in every five we just safeguard - even if they're in possession of crack cocaine." Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams told Police Oracle.

He added: “But they don't necessarily see themselves as victims. They don't necessarily say 'I didn't want to be in Brighton, somebody - an adult -  exploited me to make me involved in this'.”

Since 2019, BTP has had a dedicated county lines taskforce which was established thanks to Home Office funding. Four other forces the Met, Merseyside, West Midlands and GMP have also received this specialist funding to set up similar units.

From the establishment of the taskforce, the force brought somebody in from childrens’ services in West Sussex in a consultancy capacity, who DS Williams described as “an absolutely critical member of my team”.

Now, embedded within the team are five safeguarding experts and three fully trained social workers. They work on a roster basis so that someone is always on hand to be consulted when a child is arrested, but they also do educational work – both internal and external presentations with partners.

The force has implemented safeguarding conferences in custody and has partnered with The Children’s Society.

DS Williams said that 38 per cent of those they arrest are aged 19 or younger.

He gave an example of a child who the force had treated as a victim, although he was in possession of £4,000 worth of crack cocaine and heroin.

“We have to engage the CPS and the CPS encourage charging, which, of course, we can deal with later down the line, even if we're dealing with them as a victim.

“It was a Friday, and he went in on Saturday and pleaded guilty. So this is within 24 hours of his arrest. He's criminalised himself effectively.”

DS Williams explained that the child ended up with a referral order.

He added: “We then built on that case and identified the individual that was exploiting him. So we ended up in a trial for human trafficking with this individual. But the person that we were saying was being exploited, was already a criminal in the eyes of the British judiciary.

“British law is made on somebody standing up saying something bad happened to me, this is how it happened. And it was that individual that did it. This is so far removed from that.”

The force has so been involved in 20 charges under the Modern Slavery Act, which DS Williams says can be time consuming as investigations.

“We're trying to move this business model into the realms of child abuse,” he explained.

“When we start getting significant sentences for human trafficking, rather than just drug supply, then that is our major deterrent.

“Ideally, I'd like to encourage the prisons estate and the judiciary to get these people to serve in specialist prisons as child abusers because that would make it extremely unattractive.”

Leave a Comment
In Other News
How technology is affecting County Lines drug dealing
MoJ warned uncosted and vague victim reforms will hit forces
Failure to protect but no cover up of CSE in Oldham report finds
BTP on County Lines: “We didn't think it is as prevalent as it clearly is”
Kent's county lines success as gangs drop from 80 to 37
Five force op delivers fresh blow to County Lines gangs
County Lines: Could use of burner phones end within 12 months?
More News