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County lines enforcement moving in positive direction, says NPCC lead

DAC Graham McNulty spoke to Police Oracle about using modern slavery legislation as a deterrent to county lines and the success of cross border working

Modern slavery charges are seeing sentences twice as long as drugs charges for those involved in county lines, the NPCC lead has told Police Oracle.

DAC Graham McNulty added it is “good we’re doing it, we can always do more.”

“Modern slavery charges are really important, but they’re also difficult to get,” he continued.

“Most people are charged with drugs trafficking, but modern slavery charges can see sentences twice as long.

“Slavery and trafficking prevention orders can also be put in place and have the power to stop individuals influencing young people.”

He said there are currently 77 orders awaiting a date at court.

Workshops are also currently being delivered in forces regarding how officers can best use the legislation.

DAC McNulty said that cross-border working to tackle county lines has seen a “fundamental shift”.

“When I first picked up the national portfolio in the summer of 2019, I had to deal with the HMIC report that had just been written ‘Both sides of the coin' [which called for greater collaboration].

“My number one priority was cross-border working […] and I think now the picture has fundamentally shifted.

“Day in and day out forces are working together, I honestly think if you look at the landscape now it’s much more cohesive.”

He added that the Met has seen 800 joint ops on county lines across 25 forces.

Interventions for young people caught up in country lines gang crime in terms of being criminally exploited he also described as “effective” but “not perfect”.

He emphasises that the target is very much the line holders and the aim is not to criminalise children although it can sometimes lead to grey areas.

Thanks to evidence and intel being shared quickly, it is possible to see the roles that individuals play he adds. 

Work is being done with charities and the Rescue and Response county lines service to adequately support young people.

It marks county lines intensification week during which over 170 lines were shut down nationally. It represents an increase of 65 per cent from the previous intensification week when 104 lines were closed.

1,360 people were arrested and over £2.7m worth of Class A and Class B drugs were seized.

In September 2022, the Home Office announced allocation of up to £5 million to better support young people and their families for the next three years.

This funding forms part of the County Lines Programme, where up to £145 million is being invested by the Government over 3 years.

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