Current law 'failing to curb' growing number of child drug runners, report seen by ITV News shows

  • Video report by ITV News National Editor Allegra Stratton

Current laws are failing to curb the rise in numbers of children being used to run drugs across the country, a report obtained by ITV News suggests.

The practice, known as county lines, or going county, involves gangs using children as young as 10 to carry and sell drugs across borders and boroughs.

The tactic, which enables gangs to sell drugs outside of their immediate area with less chance of detection, is fuelling a spike in violent crime.

The Home Office report, complied by 4,000 professionals at the front line of county lines children, calls for urgent action.

One case worker warned: "Children found with drugs are not raising alarm bells.

"Any child holding crack cocaine should be a children protection case. These are drugs people kill for, and that kill."

Another said they had to fight for a child in possession of a gun to be accepted as a case of neglect.

ITV News and the Tonight programme spoke to three teenagers in Birmingham who are forced to run drugs.

While being interviewed, one of the boys showed ITV News his knife describing the substantial blade as "just a small one".

The boys started as young as 10 and have now become trapped in a cycle that is hard to break - these groomed children are likely to go on and groom other vulnerable young people themselves.

"You got to survive, you've got to live," they told ITV News.

A teenager shows ITV News his 'small' knife. Credit: ITV News

For the first time on national television, ITV News met with three men who use children to sell their drugs.

They were unrepentant about their actions claiming they are simply "showing the kids what we had to do when we were kids".

"Before they do anything, the first initation we do, when we meet with the young ones, we tell them, do you wanna do this, before you get into this?

"Because once they're getting into this there's no coming out and there is a come out but it's not a come out as a thing like," one of them said.

"Once you get into this, you can either die or go to jail, there's two things.

"And if you don't get those two things then you're lucky."

Report author Simon Ford said: "I think that it is very evident that this issue is growing.

"It’s a national problem and as I said having worked in this field for the last two or three years I have certainly seen it increase.

"I don’t think we have got a real measure on the size of it at the moment, other than the fact that we know it is increasing."

This man told ITV News he was not grooming children by using them to run drugs. Credit: ITV News

A youth offending manager told ITV News she had been trying to get authorities to give the issue the urgent attention it needed for years.

She said: “Things are worse than they’ve ever been. We know it as going county (county lines) it has been around for a long, long time and we have had so many opportunities to get this under control. Now I’m at the point where, how are we ever going to get this under control. Is it too late?

"We have a whole generation of young people who are out there exploiting others that’s are carrying weapons, that are killing people. But are also being victimised and targeted."

  • Watch Allegra's exclusive investigation, Tonight: 'Violent Britain: Drugs, Knives & Gangs', 7.30pm, Thursday on ITV