County Lines – What is it?

county lines

‘County Lines’ – What is it?

You have no doubt heard in the news the term ‘County Lines’ in respect of UK police and law enforcement agencies. It is a term used by police and law enforcement agencies to refer to the networks of organised crime groups and gangs involved in the exportation of illegal drugs into the UK using ‘deal lines’ – communication networks (mobile telephone lines) and other forms of networks. They exploit vulnerable groups of people, adults and children, using sexual violence, coercion and intimidation in order to run these networks. Those involved will be subject to threats on themselves and their families, amongst other forms of violence to exert fear.

The National Crime Agency has identified evidence of city-based organised crime gangs dealing into new areas of the country, such as coastal towns where they recruit vulnerable people to courier, organise and sell the drugs.

Increased activity in ‘County Line’ type groups and the complicated networks means the police and CPS look at each on a case by case basis, with different legislation available to reflect the conduct taking place. The involvement of young, vulnerable people involves not only the police but other protective agencies for safeguarding purposes.

There may be cases which have to be considered under The Modern Slavery Act 2015 – included offences of trafficking, forced labour and exploitation. Defences for those who appear to be involved in such criminal activities as a result are available and it may be that a person found to be involved in criminal activity as a result of being exploited would be required as a witness for the prosecution, rather than prosecuted themselves.

The Policing and Crime Act 2009 contains provisions for injunctions to be sought by the police and local authorities against gang-related drug dealing activity, allowing courts to place prohibitions or requirements on the activity of a person involved in such activity.

Then of course, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 offences covering offences of possession, possession with intent to supply and production.

As ‘County Line’ activity inevitably involves the use of violence and perhaps weapons then legislation in relation to those offences are also available to the prosecuting authorities.

The issue is a very serious and complicated one and the Children’s Society Charity estimates 46,000 children in England are involved in Criminal Activity.

A detailed document called ‘County Lines Typology’ was drafted in 2018 covering in more detail which can be accessed at the CPS website here.

If you have been charged with offences in relation to drugs, or any of the above, please contact us in order to discuss your case. We have seen more offences  that reflect the issues above and our solicitors are expert at advising on such matters.