Char­ity chief: It is evil threat to whole fam­i­lies

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - News - LIFE­LINE Rob Owen

THE head of a char­ity which of­fers sup­port to fam­i­lies of County Lines vic­tims said the ef­fects of in­volve­ment with gangs are “har­row­ing”.

The St Giles Trust works with spe­cial­ly­trained for­mer of­fend­ers who can en­gage with brain­washed young­sters and help them es­cape. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Rob Owen said: “Vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren, of­ten from lov­ing, car­ing homes, have re­placed the hard­ened crim­i­nals who used to trans­port and deal drugs.

“Once they be­come in­volved the ef­fects are har­row­ing.

“Chil­dren go miss­ing for days on end, holed up in filthy drug dens where they

are ex­pected to deal drugs 24/7. They are threat­ened and of­ten sub­jected to vi­o­lence if they try to leave.

“School­ing is missed. Fam­i­lies are wor­ried but pow­er­less to stop them be­ing lured away by the gangs who they now iden­tify as their new ‘fam­ily’.

“But there is a so­lu­tion in our ap­proach of us­ing trained pro­fes­sion­als with first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of this life.

“A kid who has been brain­washed into not talk­ing to any­one other than the gang will need some­one cred­i­ble to of­fer them the life­line they need.

“This is not a mat­ter of bad par­ent­ing – it is child ex­ploita­tion, pure and sim­ple. And we need your help to tackle it.”

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