04:34 GMT26 February 2021
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    Organized crime groups in Glasgow, Scotland are paying kids to run "reconnaissance" missions on other gangs’ turf, transport and hold drugs, and other nefarious services, it has been reported.

    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.

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    "We found criminal gangs who were up and coming couldn't rise to the top of the food chain in Glasgow and the West coast. They were actually the ones sending to more rural villages, and running the supply chain that way because the Glasgow market was quite saturated. When you have someone moving down from Glasgow who had strong links in Glasgow and muscle, they would be able to sell cheaper drugs and they would have the muscle to back it up," he explained.

    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.

    Child spy
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    Child spy
    Journalists, politicians and the public alike were entirely unaware UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies used under-18s as CHIS — and they may never have found out, were it not for the government seeking the ability to extend the length of CHIS deployment periods from one to three months. The change was considered vital due to juvenile CHIS sometimes being unable to complete "tasking" (espionage objectives) in the standard period — and such a short space of time may discourage their use by authorities.

    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.

    For Enver Solomon, chief executive of Just for Kids Law, the case confirmed the charity's worst fears about the way investigatory agencies use child spies.

    "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.


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    drug gangs, child gangs, child spies, child abuse, drugs, United Kingdom, Scotland
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