One of the standout trends in crime is adults bringing children into their criminal enterprise and exploiting them. Children are exploitable and expendable to them. We see it in the ‘county lines’ crimes where kids, often vulnerable, are coerced into crime and often forced to perform a humiliating act, usual sexual, that’s filmed and used as a threat if they don’t do what is demanded of them.
This is vicious, nasty, and a growing trend. It wrecks lives.
Worst of all, Priti Patel and government haven’t brought forward a single piece of legislation to keep kids safe from this. But on behalf of Labour, I have.
In my previous role in the Justice team, my team and I drafted amendments that would create and offence of ‘child criminal exploitation’ and starch to it a sentence of 14 years in prison. The message is crystal clear: if you use children as part of your criminal activity then you will go to prison for a very long time. I also created a separate offence of ‘plugging’, which is the appalling practice of forcing a child to insert drugs inside themselves in order to transport.
Today these amendments were placed before parliament and voted upon. I feel some shame and a lot of frustration that the Tories actually voted against them and defeated them.
What’s happening to some youngsters has not been seen since Disckensian times. But that’s the scale of exploitation we’re seeing.
I set out with a simple mission: to make children repulsive to criminals. The amendments today would have gone a very long way to achieving it. I’m desperately sad that they were struck down but Labour will continue to fight for the protection children need.
My work on this was covered by the Times and I have attached the Hansard of the debate at Committee stage. I’m sorry there’s a paywall but here’s a link of you are able to see it: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/1c29b918-c243-11eb-a26e-4c086490cfe1?shareToken=30230885bf8fae9d6675ac78b1c42c57&fbclid=IwAR2Xs7qG7qKfeKvn9-lUbsPP6c3zo6UcwX-EsSRw65KW3qaInunhNmvphK4