A 21-year-old drug dealer has been jailed for 14 years for trafficking three teenagers from Birmingham to rural Lincolnshire to run a crack den and sell drugs.
It is the first time a drug dealer has been prosecuted under the UK Modern Slavery Act.
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Zakaria Mohammed recruited two 15-year-old boys and a 14-year-old girl as part of a “county lines” drugs network, forcing them to ferry drugs.
Police said Mohammed, who admitted four counts of possessing drugs with intent to supply and five counts of human trafficking, raked in £500-a-day in profit by organising the sale of crack cocaine and heroin from premises in Lincoln, which were raided in January.
A surveillance operation then identified a Seat Leon vehicle registered to Mohammed as making regular trips from Birmingham, often accompanied by teenagers, to an address in Lincoln’s Foster Street.
West Midlands Police seized the vehicle for having no insurance in February, discovering a phone used to run the drugs line – known as “Castro” – and clothing, including school trousers and a school tie, belonging to a missing child from Birmingham.
Officers from Lincolnshire Police recorded video evidence of children passing drugs to punters – often completing deals every 10 or 15 minutes – and swooped on the flat in Foster Street on February 12.
The teenage victims, who had been reported missing from Birmingham, were found when police raided flats linked to Mohammed in Lincoln.
Defense barrister Emma Stuart-Smith attempted to argue that her client was a victim of the drugs world who was made to follow orders from those higher up in the chain of command.
However, Judge Nicholas Webb did not accept this argument, telling Mohammed, “This is not a case of slavery or servitude. There is no evidence of force or a threat of force by you.”
“The essence of this case is is that all these children were very vulnerable and you enhanced that vulnerability.”
Criminal defense solicitor Joseph Kotrie-Monson welcomed the verdict, saying it sent a clear signal to traffickers operating county lines.
“This sort of prosecution has been a long time coming. Generations of crooks have used kids to commit crimes and even in fiction we’ve had characters like Fagin and his band of child thieves,” he said.
“These kids were clearly in a vulnerable position and criminals will take advantage of that. You see it with cannabis farms in the UK where a drug dealer will use immigrants to look after the grow and they are the ones who get picked up by police when they raid it.”
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