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21st of November 2018

United Kingdom



Axing train guards may boost 'county lines' drug gangs, minister fears

Axing train guards could help 'county lines' drug gangs recruit youngsters, security minister fearsMinister Ben Wallace is worried lack of guards on trains could boost drug gangs  Independent MP John Woodcock said guards could detect exploited children City gangs groom children to carry drugs to British country towns and resorts

By Ian Drury and James Salmon for the Daily Mail

Published: 18:32 EST, 8 November 2018 | Updated: 03:57 EST, 9 November 2018

A Home Office minister has voiced fears that removing guards from trains could boost county lines drug gangs.

Ben Wallace is concerned that driver-only trains will mean guards can no longer spot children carrying heroin and cocaine.

Mr Wallace has ordered officials to work with the Department for Transport to see if the move will worsen the county lines menace where city gangs groom boys and girls as young as 12 to carry cocaine and heroin to market towns and seaside resorts.

Ben Wallace, above, a Home Office minister, is concerned that driver-only trains will mean guards can no longer spot children carrying heroin and cocaine. He voiced fears that removing guards from trains could boost county lines drug gangs [File photo] Ben Wallace, above, a Home Office minister, is concerned that driver-only trains will mean guards can no longer spot children carrying heroin and cocaine. He voiced fears that removing guards from trains could boost county lines drug gangs [File photo]

Ben Wallace, above, a Home Office minister, is concerned that driver-only trains will mean guards can no longer spot children carrying heroin and cocaine. He voiced fears that removing guards from trains could boost county lines drug gangs [File photo]

The minister pledged to review the proposals in a letter to independent MP John Woodcock this week.

He wrote: ‘I was very interested in your comments about the role of public transport in facilitating county lines, particularly where rail franchises are removing guards from trains.

‘Home Office officials will liaise with the Department for Transport to consider this issue further and determine whether there is any additional action we can take in this space, working alongside our partners including British Transport Police.’

Welcoming Mr Wallace¿s move, former Labour MP Mr Woodcock, above, said: ¿Guards are up close with passengers in a way that drivers can never be. His constituency of Barrow-in-Furness has been blighted by the drugs trade [File photo] Welcoming Mr Wallace¿s move, former Labour MP Mr Woodcock, above, said: ¿Guards are up close with passengers in a way that drivers can never be. His constituency of Barrow-in-Furness has been blighted by the drugs trade [File photo]

Welcoming Mr Wallace’s move, former Labour MP Mr Woodcock, above, said: ‘Guards are up close with passengers in a way that drivers can never be. His constituency of Barrow-in-Furness has been blighted by the drugs trade [File photo]

Former Labour MP John Woodcock, whose constituency of Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, has been blighted by the county lines drugs trade, told the Commons last month guards could ‘detect and pick up on signs when something does not look right. 

'Many of these young people stick out like a sore thumb because they are travelling alone and look vulnerable, so public transport staff can play a vital role in alerting the police.’

Welcoming Mr Wallace’s move, Mr Woodcock said: ‘Guards are up close with passengers in a way that drivers can never be. 

'If we can train and resource public transport staff properly we can cut off the arteries that feed the county lines drug explosion – but only if the staff get to keep their jobs.’ 

Mr Wallace has ordered officials to work with the Department for Transport to see if the move will worsen the county lines menace where city gangs groom boys and girls as young as 12 to carry cocaine and heroin to market towns and seaside resorts [File photo] Mr Wallace has ordered officials to work with the Department for Transport to see if the move will worsen the county lines menace where city gangs groom boys and girls as young as 12 to carry cocaine and heroin to market towns and seaside resorts [File photo]

Mr Wallace has ordered officials to work with the Department for Transport to see if the move will worsen the county lines menace where city gangs groom boys and girls as young as 12 to carry cocaine and heroin to market towns and seaside resorts [File photo]

More than 1,400 county line gangs are believed to operate in Britain making an estimated £1.8billion annual profit. They are named after the phone lines used to organise the illegal trade. 

The majority of children recruited are aged 15 to 17 and male, while girls were often controlled by gang members and subjected to sexual violence.

Mr Wallace’s intervention risks a clash with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who has backed proposals which could see more train services run without a guard on board.

Police trained security guards on South Eastern trains still patrol London's busiest commuter routes. Ben Wallace is concerned that driver-only trains will mean guards can no longer spot children carrying heroin and cocaine [File photo] Police trained security guards on South Eastern trains still patrol London's busiest commuter routes. Ben Wallace is concerned that driver-only trains will mean guards can no longer spot children carrying heroin and cocaine [File photo]

Police trained security guards on South Eastern trains still patrol London's busiest commuter routes. Ben Wallace is concerned that driver-only trains will mean guards can no longer spot children carrying heroin and cocaine [File photo]

The father and brother of a woman who fled to Syria to join Islamic State face lengthy jail terms after running a county lines racket.

Mohammed Shakil, 47, of Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, was found guilty at Derby Crown Court yesterday of dealing drugs. His son Tareem, 25, had already pleaded guilty to the conspiracy. They will be sentenced later,

In 2016, Mohammed’s daughter Tareena, then 25, became the first woman in the UK to be jailed for joining IS after fleeing to Syria with her toddler son but later returning.

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