Child Criminal Exploitation

Nov 2018

Child Criminal Exploitation


Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) can be understood as: the exploitation of children and young people aged under 18 years in the storage, distribution and selling of illegal drugs, under violent coercion or exploited through the use of debt, or promise of cash or drugs. Patterns of grooming behaviour by adults can be seen to be similar to those associated with sexual exploitation (CSE). There will be a power imbalance and children and young people should not be viewed as at fault, ‘choosing a lifestyle’ or making an informed choice.

Criminal exploitation is not restricted to drugs; some children are transporters of cash as well as firearms and weapons, and are coerced into carrying out theft and burglaries. Many children and young people subject to CCE are exploited by criminal gangs. A gang is considered to be a relatively durable, predominantly street-based group of young people who:

(1) see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group,

(2) engage in a range of criminal activity and violence,

(3) identify with or lay claim over territory,

(4) have some form of identifying structural feature, and

(5) are in conflict with other, similar, gangs.

Children and young people involved in criminal exploitation are often sent to differing locations within the United Kingdom to carry out tasks for gangs, such as supplying drugs to suburban areas, market and coastal towns. Gangs are usually based in cities. This criminal activity is known as ‘county lines’ – a term that is used by the police. This type of movement of children falls within the legal definition of trafficking in the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Child trafficking is defined as the ‘recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt’ of a child for the purpose of exploitation.

CCE needs to be viewed in the context of broader vulnerabilities and other forms of exploitation and abuse. This could be within families, communities or more sophisticated organised crime groups. There needs to be consideration around the overlap and links between familial violence and/or criminality, trauma, peer to peer abuse, CSE, gang violence, going missing, and (as above) trafficking and modern day slavery.

For further information see the One Minute Guide on Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE).


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