The findings, reported by Glasgow local paper Evening Times, were reached by Dr. Robert McLean of Northumbria University.
"Maybe if you wanted to get information on another dealer and what they were up to, you could say to some kids, ‘hang around in this area and tell me what's going on there'. Mainly [dealers employ] people they're related to, or people have close ties to, like friends' children and stuff like that, so it isn't just random children from the street," the academic told the news outlet.
McLean interviewed drug dealers and gang members for a new paper on the Scottish drugs market, published last month — he found most drugs in Scotland pass through Glasgow, after being smuggled from cities in England or Northern Ireland, and the market for cocaine and heroin in Glasgow is now so saturated gangs are starting to sell drugs in the villages adjacent to the city.
Young James Bond
The increasing involvement of children in criminal activity in Britain has led police and intelligence agencies to utilise ever-young informants in covert operations against terrorists, violent gangs, sexual abuse rings and drug syndicates.
In July, in response to grave concerns about the practice being expressed the House of Lords' Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Security Minister Ben Wallace justified the practice on the basis the Home Office feels there is "increasing scope for juvenile CHIS (covert human intelligence sources) to assist in both preventing and prosecuting such offences".
"They may have unique access to information about other young people involved in or victims. For example, juvenile CHIS can give investigators broader insight into how young people in gangs are communicating with each other. Much as investigators wish to avoid the use of young people, it's possible a carefully managed deployment of a young person could contribute to detecting crime and preventing offending," he said.
After condemnation from politicians and human rights groups, the matter has become the subject of an investigation by parliament's joint committee on human rights, which has criticised the government over an apparent lack of safeguards in the system and questioned whether the practice is compatible with international law.
Spies as Accessories
It's not merely in the drugs market juveniles are being exploited by criminals and authorities alike. In October, it was revealed a 17-year-old prostitute was enlisted by police to collect information on her pimp, which led to her becoming an accessory to murder.
The girl was one of a group of girls the suspect — whom "she thought of as her boyfriend" — had been selling for sex. She not only witnessed the killing, but was involved in the disposal of clothes and other items afterwards.
"It seems the police asked the child to prolong a traumatising and dangerous situation when they could have rescued her. It shows just how important it is that we challenge the government over what can be a damaging and exploitative practice," he said.