Shock at young drug dealers

PUBLISHED: 08:07 13 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:00 22 October 2010

Children as young as 12 have been caught by police dealing drugs on Norfolk's streets, newly-published evidence reveals.

Children as young as 12 have been caught by police dealing drugs on Norfolk's streets, newly-published evidence reveals.

The shock findings have emerged in documents released by Norfolk police under the Freedom of Information Act.

In total, 536 children, aged between 12 and 18, were stopped for possessing or dealing drugs, ranging from cannabis to heroin, during the three years up to 2005.

On one occasion, a 12-year-old from Gorleston was cautioned for drug dealing and a 15-year-old was caught supplying cannabis in North Walsham.

And in Mile Cross, in Norwich, a 15-year-old was found to be in possession of a class C drug with intent to supply, and another 16-year-old was found supplying heroin, while a boy of the same age was found in possession of cocaine in the city centre.

On average, Norfolk police stopped about four children a week in connection with drug offences during the three years. The majority were given cautions, although some have gone on to be prosecuted.

Richard Price, Norfolk police's drug availability liaison officer, said: "Norfolk Constabulary remains committed to addressing the issue of substance misuse among young people.

"However, while we remain focused on enforcing the law, we also recognise the need to work with youngsters to educate and make them aware of the dangers drugs can pose as well the various treatment programmes available."

Although the majority of children stopped for drugs were in possession of cannabis, Norwich Coroner William Armstrong has in the past described cannabis as a "gateway drug" to harder drugs for vulnerable youngsters.

Mental illness charity Rethink has also highlighted concerns about cannabis and how it is linked to mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, in later life.

Mr Price added: "Crime reduction and harm reduction are overlapping considerations and we continue to work with a wide range of partners through the Norfolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team, to develop a range of support, advice and guidance for young people."

Bill Gould, head teacher of Hellesdon High School, near Norwich, said he felt the figures were a reflection of today's society.

"I'm afraid, sadly, I'm not surprised. Whether other people like it or not, youngsters are impressionable and I think they see people in society who use/abuse drugs who regard it as little more than an occupational hazard if they are charged with possession."

"People who are in the public gaze do have to, I believe, bear some sort of responsibility to the people who idolise them."

Mr Gould added that everyone had a role to play in trying to lead youngsters away from drug abuse.

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