10 year olds targeted by County Lines drugs gangs - warns headteacher

Credit: PA

County lines drug gangs are recruiting children aged under 10, a charity has suggested.

The Children's Society made the claim after carrying out research which suggested younger children than previously thought were being drawn into gangs.

In their report, a Manchester Deputy Head warns that he knows of two pupils at risk from his school, and that such youngsters are regarded as "easy targets".

Children are often threatened with violence to keep them compliant. Credit: PA

The research was carried out anonymously, gathering mainly anecdotal evidence, the charity said.

Nick Roseveare, the charity's chief executive, said "cowardly criminals" were "stooping to new lows in grooming young people to do their dirty work and in casting their net wider to reel in younger children".

The charity is calling for early intervention to protect children, and for youngsters to be seen as victims rather than criminals.

The National Crime Agency Credit: PA

What is County Lines?

In January, the National Crime Agency warned that criminal gangs were exploiting thousands of children as young as 11 to run the lucrative drug networks, raking in hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

Responding to the report, Nikki Holland, who leads on county lines for the NCA, said: "County Lines drug dealing relies heavily on the exploitation of children and other vulnerable people, with girls and boys being exposed to physical, mental and sexual abuse.

"While young people in their middle to late teens make up the majority of those involved in county lines, children of all ages are targeted and used by the criminals behind drug dealing operations."