Criminal exploitation can take several forms, but generally involves an individual or group taking advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce and control a child into committing a criminal act.
Children can be threatened and blackmailed, subjected to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, and are often at risk of serious violence.
The most recognised form of child criminal exploitation is ‘county lines’ where young people are coerced to carry drugs and weapons from one area to another to service complex drug supply chains.
Children can also be exploited through a range of organised criminal activity from forced begging to cannabis cultivation to stealing cars or alcohol to order.
A child from any background can be coerced into CCE, however gangs often target particular groups who are more vulnerable, such as those in care, with additional mental health needs and children who live in a household with domestic abuse.
The experience of being exploited is traumatising for children and it is unlikely they will be able to recover from abusive experiences without significant professional support.