LONDON, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Two London gang members who used a young woman to carry and sell drugs have been jailed for human trafficking in a landmark legal case, prosecutors said on Friday.
Mahad Yusuf, 20, and Fesal Mahamud, 19, were ordered jailed for a total of 19 years after pleading guilty last year to trafficking a young person for the purposes of exploitation under Britain’s anti-slavery laws and to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
The gang lured the victim in London by making contact on social media and drove her to South Wales, where the 19-year-old was held in a home for five days, forced to carry drugs and told that she belonged to her traffickers, according to police.
“The teenage girl at the centre of this case was trafficked and abused by gang members in order to deal drugs,” said Nicola Rees, a prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
“She was treated as a commodity, transported to an unfamiliar location without any means of contacting her family or friends and forced to carry Class A drugs,” Rees said.
The case marks the first time that Britain’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act was used to convict drug dealers, and police hope its hefty sentences will help to tackle the use of children as runners and mules in the so-called ‘county lines’ drug trade.
Regarded as a global leader in the fight to end modern slavery, Britain passed the law to introduce life sentences for traffickers, protect people at risk of being enslaved, and compel companies to check their supply chains for forced labour.
Thousands of children – some as young as 12 – are estimated to be used by gangs to carry drugs between cities and rural areas in Britain, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Police chiefs and Britain’s anti-slavery tsar Kevin Hyland previously told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that using the Modern Slavery Act to prosecute drug dealers who exploit and enslave people would send a strong message to other criminals.
At least 13,000 people across Britain are estimated by the government to be victims of forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude – but police say the true figure could be in the tens of thousands with slavery operations on the rise.