Russell Webster - Work with Offenders
Work with offenders on challenging research on the link between County Lines and abused children
There is a continuing debate about the extent to which young people involved in County Lines drug dealing gangs are criminals or victims. We also know that although the numbers of children detained in custody has reduced massively over recent years (there was an average of just over 780 children in custody at any one time during 2019/20, a fall of 68% compared with ten years ago), those who are detained have very complex needs.
This issue was brought under the spotlight even more by new research commissioned by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner and published earlier this year. The “Punishing Abuse” report authored by Dr Alex Chard, argues that a number of children in the youth justice system are being punished as a consequence of the impact on their behaviours of their early abuse and loss.
The report highlights the abuse and adversity that these children suffered is horrifying. Of the 80 children in the criminal justice system studied:
The report indicates that exposure to abuse as a child may re-calibrate the emotional response system leaving latent vulnerability to aggressive behaviour, psychiatric disorder and poor outcomes across the life-course.
Report Author Dr Alex Chard said: “Poverty, disadvantage and social exclusion, linked with systemic failure to address their needs, creates a conveyor belt which propels vulnerable children towards exploitation and crime”.
Essentially, the report identifies a clear link between children and teenagers suffering from abuse, violence, and poverty, and then going on to commit criminal offences. It goes on to call for more investment in support and intervention for the services that are needed to help children in crisis. The report argues that the current social and economic cost of inaction could be considerable and investing the below recommendations will help prevent the costs of failure while achieving social and economic returns.
The report’s key recommendations are: