Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

A boy living in care was abducted by a drugs gang and forced to sell heroin and crack cocaine, a court heard.

The 16-year-old was told he had to pay off his brother’s debt after his sibling got arrested.

The teen, who cannot be named, was threatened with violence and shipped between several ‘crack dens’ working as a runner for his new masters.

jerome wallis
Jerome Wallis, a county lines drug dealer, has been jailed for eight years in one of the first prosecutions under the Modern Slavery Act (Picture: PA)

He was finally able to flee his abductors when his ‘minder’ briefly turned his back and he ran to a police station. The teenager’s ordeal emerged as county lines drug dealer Jerome Wallis, 20, was jailed under the Modern Slavery Act.

The conviction is the first in Wales and the second only in the UK.

A court heard how the teenager was contacted by Wallis – a convicted child rapist – on Snapchat in July last year.

They arranged to meet in the Paddington area of London.

Wallis told the boy his older brother had been arrested and the drugs debt now fell on him to pay off.

The boy was then told he would be taken to Swansea to work for a year and he was bundled into Citroen car and driven to Wales.

Swansea Crown Court heard over the following couple of days, Wallis and the boy visited a number of ‘safe houses’ in the city where Wallis prepared drugs deals.

It was the boy’s job to ‘run the line’ and take the wraps to users and return with the cash.

Prosecutor Catherine Richards said on a number of occasions, Wallis accused the boy of short-changing him on deals and rang an associate to ask him to come around and ‘teach him a lesson.’
One week Wallis headed back to London to collect more drugs and the boy took his chance to escape.

A ‘minder’ who had been sent to watch the boy briefly left the flat where they were staying and the teen ran to nearby Swansea Police station.

He told officers what was happening and two days later they raided the property, where Wallis and fellow defendant Savion Browne, 25, were arrested.

During a search of the address, officers found thousands of pounds in cash, knives, nunchucks and mobile phones.

Heroin and cocaine with a potential street value of £4,000 had been thrown out of the window as the property was raided.

The court heard that following the arrests, the trafficked teenager had received ‘warnings’ not to go to court.

He gave evidence in court against the gang members and is now living in fear of reprisal since his escape.

Wallis, of Southwark, London, admitted conspiracy to supply heroin, conspiracy to supply crack cocaine, and arranging or facilitating the travel of a child with a view to him being exploited. He was jailed for eight years and banned from contacting his victim after his release.

Browne of Lewisham, London, was convicted at trial of conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine. He was jailed for six years.

Speaking after the sentencing, South Wales Police detective constable Victoria Bayly said: ‘The victim in this case showed an incredible amount of bravery; firstly in fleeing the gang despite living under the constant threat of violence and secondly in providing us with a detailed account which enabled us to quickly apprehend both Wallis and Browne and bring them to justice.

‘Doing so was not easy for the victim. Gangs involved in county lines criminality deliberately target young and vulnerable children, whom they know are easy to groom, manipulate and control.

‘Breaking free of a gang’s clutches often feels impossible to these young children.

‘Even after he came forward to the police the victim has lived in fear of reprisals and the case has had a huge impact on his life.

‘I hope today’s sentencing provides him with some peace of mind and allows him to begin moving on with his life.’

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