James'* story of being a victim of forced gang-related criminality

*Names changed to protect identities

Read the 'Criminal Exploitation of Adult Victims' report

James was 16 when he was first lured into criminal exploitation. As a young carer for a disabled mother, he was very isolated and had a limited support network.

James was befriended by Mike, a young adult in his neighbourhood, who at first pretended to offer help. After a while, Mike asked James to drop a package to another property as a favour. James felt that he could not say no. However, on his way to drop the package he was attacked and the package was stolen.

Mike and two of his friends beat James up and told him that he now owed several thousand pounds of debt to drug dealers. He was told that he would have to work daily to pay it off. He received threats to himself and his mother if he did not comply.

Over the next two years, James dealt drugs for several hours a day. He was instructed to swallow the drugs and retrieve them later if approached by police. For that work, he was told he was “earning” a few pounds a day against his debt. Even when he thought his debt had been paid off, however, his exploiters told him otherwise.

James was arrested for drug offences after a raid in his house. He was given a date for a court hearing, and during that time his mother continued to receive threats against her. James continued to be forced to deal drugs for his exploiters whilst waiting for his court hearing. James’ solicitor identified him as a potential victim of exploitation and helped him get referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) at the age of 18. Even whilst accessing support, James was too scared of retributions against himself and his mother to testify against his exploiters.

After James received advocacy and support from Hestia, the charges against him were dropped.

Read the 'Criminal Exploitation of Adult Victims' report