Report reveals Island’s children being ‘exploited’ in drugs trade

The issue has been described by the Jersey Probation and After-Care Service as “a significant safeguarding risk”.

A SMALL number of children are being “exploited” by adults to sell drugs after getting into debt, according to a new report.

The Jersey Probation and After-Care Service annual report for 2023 described the emerging issue as “a significant safeguarding risk”.

The report stated: “We have become aware of a small number of children, who are experimenting with drugs and getting into difficulties with debts to those who supply them.

“On occasion, this has led to them being exploited by adults to become embroiled in illegal activity through selling drugs to others or agreeing to hold quantities of drugs for older suppliers.”

The report’s publication comes weeks after the Youth Court heard a case in which a teenage boy who said he used cannabis for his ADHD was “groomed” by young adults into selling drugs to pay for his habit.

Chief probation officer Mike Cutland stressed that only a small minority of children became involved in such activities.

And he spoke about the importance of providing support and resources to help children recover, while also addressing systemic issues that lead to exploitation and abuse.

He said: “We have become aware of a number of children who have been using drugs, who have got into difficulties financially.

“It usually starts with them using and then being offered more drugs, some of which they can pass on to others.”

He explained how this can lead to a “double bind” situation where children end up dealing or storing drugs for older criminals to pay off debts.

JFCAS Mike Cutland. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (38187461)

Mr Cutland said: “They’re in trouble with the police because they’ve been acting illegally, and then they owe this money as well…and they may face threats or pressures from those they owe money to.”

“It’s a real problem for those children who get caught up in it. And it worries the living daylights out of their mums and dads and wider family,” he added.

To address this issue, the chief probation officer said that it was important for the service to work with the police, social services, education, and youth services to educate children about exploitation, while providing advice and support to children and families caught in this cycle.

“One of the first things we try to do is talk to young people about what exploitation means, because it can be a difficult concept.

“Some don’t recognise they’re being taken advantage of.

“It’s perhaps a little easier these days because of the virtual world, social media, burner phones – it’s easier to hide things from mum and dad.”

Mr Cutland explained that the Probation Service aims to take a non-judgemental approach that recognises the strengths of young people.

He also called for patience, clear communication and a coordinated response to support those affected.

“Our job is to look at people’s qualities, not ignore risks, but build on their strengths,” he said.

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