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Gang members convicted in landmark ‘county lines’ human trafficking case

Three convicted young drug dealers, who were separately prosecuted for human trafficking offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, have been sentenced to between 3 and a half and 5 years' imprisonment.

The gang members, Glodi Wabelua, Dean Alford and Michael Karemera (all 25 years old)  had been convicted after a trial in February 2016 of conspiracy to supply class A drugs (heroin and crack cocaine).  Alford was sentenced to 11 years, Karemera to 10 and Wabelua received a lesser sentence of 6 years and 8 months due to his guilty plea.

In a landmark case, the CPS also prosecuted the gang members separately for human trafficking offences.  Six victims aged 14 to 19 were groomed in order to facilitate the restocking and supply of class A drugs between London and Portsmouth in a "county lines" operation.

County lines operate where gangs in larger cities use young, vulnerable children to extend their drug dealing into smaller towns and rural areas.  As in this case, a dedicated mobile phone is used to advertise when drugs are available and to arrange re-stocking.  Drugs are also kept in the victims' homes.

In this case as many as 25 children from care homes and units for expelled pupils were involved in the plot.  Violence was used to coerce a number of victims with one victim (a 19 year old who suffers from autism) being subjected to a mock execution when drugs and money had been stolen from him.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) estimate that there are at least 283 county lines originating in London in their report of November 2017.  Prosecutors are encouraged to consider all available charges, including those under the Modern Slavery Act, when dealing with a ‘county lines’ operation.  A 'County Lines' typology has been produced providing guidance to the Police and CPS in dealing with the investigation and prosecution of offences.

Following the sentencing hearing the Deputy Assistant Commissioner Duncan Ball of the Metropolitan Police said: “Use of modern slavery legislation is an important aspect of targeting those criminal networks who exploit vulnerable children and adults to maximise their profits from drug supply...Today’s convictions send a clear message that we will utilise all legislation nationally to suppress county line activity.”


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