Press Release from Ann Coffey MP – 3rd March 2016
Children are being groomed to use Kinder Egg toys to hide heroin and crack cocaine inside their own bodies, an MP warned today.
Ann Coffey MP, the chair of the All Party Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, said it showed a ‘terrible disregard for children’s lives by urban gangs’.
Speaking during a backbench debate on gangs and youth violence, Ms Coffey called for the introduction of a new “Fagin Order” to stop adults grooming children to sell drugs.
She highlighted the phenomenon of ‘County Lines’, in which urban criminal gangs groom and coerce children and young people into selling Class A drugs many miles from home, often in quiet market and seaside towns.
The young people are set up with a mobile phone to deal drugs in a hotel or the flat of a vulnerable person.
Ms Coffey said children from Greater Manchester, groomed by criminal gangs, had been found selling drugs in places as far away as Devon.
Ms Coffey, who wrote the Real Voices report on Child Sexual Exploitation in Greater Manchester in 2014, said there were many similarities with the grooming of children for child sexual exploitation and for criminal drug dealing.
She told the Commons:
“These gang leaders are rather like modern day Fagins or Bill Sikes – hard men who groom youngsters and get them to do their dirty work.”
“Just as with children groomed for child sexual exploitation, we need to recognise that young people drawn into criminality and drug dealing have, in the first instance, been groomed and manipulated.
“This is the next big grooming scandal on the horizon.”
A practical way for disrupting the grooming of children and young people to sell drugs would be introduce a new civil order banning criminal adults from contacting a child, she said.
“Currently we have numerous civil orders available to the police to combat grooming for child sexual exploitation including Sexual Risk Orders, Sexual Harm Prevention Orders and Child Abduction Warning Notices.
“I would like to see the creation of similar orders to be used where children are being groomed by organised criminals and gangs to act as drug runners. They could be called Fagin orders.”
Ms Coffey has been told by the St Giles Trust, a charity that works with young people to stop them reoffending, that young people are sometimes encouraged to use the plastic container from Kinder Egg toys to hide drugs inside their own bodies – a serious risk to their health.
“It’s hard to imagine a more graphic metaphor for the perversion of childhood,” she said.
“The Trust have also told me about young girls dressed in school uniform being used to mule drugs because they are unlikely to be stopped and searched.”
The Home office have said have there have been examples of children as young as nine getting involved in gangs in London and the St Giles Trust have given at least one example of a child aged 12 being involved in ‘County Lines’ operations.
Ms Coffey said that increasingly there are stories about gangs setting up their own young members to be robbed en route, and then told that they must work off the debt by trafficking and selling drugs for free or giving sexual favours
“This is nothing more or less than slavery.
“The threat of CSE for girls involved in gangs is known, but the added factor of being trafficked to remote locations compounds their vulnerability.
“These young people are at risk of physical violence, sexual exploitation and emotional and physical abuse. This model of grooming involves both trafficking and modern slavery.
“We have to learn from the CSE scandals that have ruined so many lives. We cannot afford to make the same mistakes again of blaming young people and saying they’ve made their own bed or failing to ask the right questions or failing to respond even when we know what is going on.”
The full transcript of Ms Coffey’s speech can be seen here – http://anncoffeymp.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Ann-Coffey-MP-Gangs-and-Youth-Violence-speech.pdf