Parents concerned their children are involved in dealing drugs or other crime have been urged to speak to the police.

Insp James Humphries, based at St Aldates police station, said his officers’ ‘raison d’etre’ was to prevent children from coming to harm.

“We’re not going to send the child to prison if they’re being exploited by others. It’s about what can we do to prevent them coming to harm,” he told the Oxford Mail.

He added: “We’re trying to break a cycle.”

His team is responsible for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.

It was Insp Humphries’ officers who last month obtained the region’s first every Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order, preventing convicted Oxford drug dealer Kofie Welch from having more than one phone or SIM card, arranging travel for under-18s or being in the same car as a child who’s not related to him.

Welch, 26, was jailed in 2019 for dealing class A drugs after he was linked to crack cocaine found in a crashed vehicle. Earlier this year, he received more jail time for having a phone in the Dorset prison where he was serving his four year and four month jail sentence.


Kofie Welchs 2019 mugshot Picture: TVP

Kofie Welch's 2019 mugshot Picture: TVP


The slavery and trafficking risk order, introduced by the Modern Slavery Act in 2015, is still relatively rarely seen in England’s criminal courts.

The order imposed against Welch was the first sought by Thames Valley Police – but it is unlikely to be the last.

In applying for the order, police officers are able to put a wider range of evidence before the judge about a person’s suspected crimes than would ordinarily go before a jury.

It means police officers and prosecutors aren’t necessarily reliant on the evidence of the child who’s being exploited.

“The biggest problem we have with criminal exploitation of children is that children are terrified of those that are exploiting them so they are highly unlikely at the point of exploitation to come and seek our help,” Mr Humphries said.

“They have disinformation spread to them by their drug dealer. The dealer will use violence against them – threats – [saying the police] will take you off you off your family. Those are things my team work hard to prevent.”


Insp James Humphries at St Aldates police station Picture: ED NIX

Insp James Humphries at St Aldates police station Picture: ED NIX


He added: “My role and my officers’ role is to protect those who are most vulnerable coming to harm from exploitation. We will use every power we have to prevent them from criminals who exploit children to make money.”

Oxfordshire has seen recent tragedies in which young people involved in dealing drugs have lost their lives.

Earlier this month, senior coroner Darren Salter heard that Birmingham drug dealer Harun Jama, who was just 16 when he was stabbed to death in January 2018, had been working to recoup losses incurred when he was arrested in Oxford the previous month. He had gunpowder residue on his hand, indicating he had either shot or been near a weapon shortly before his murder.


Harun Jama, who died in 2018 after he was fatally stabbed in Oxford Picture: FAMILY/TVP

Harun Jama, who died in 2018 after he was fatally stabbed in Oxford Picture: FAMILY/TVP


In April 2019, another 16-year-old boy ‘Jacob’, from Banbury, took his own life after being groomed by drug gangs for around two years. A serious case review published in January concluded the teenager was ‘failed’ by the authorities.

The boy's mum, Karla, featured in Channel 4 documentary Britain's Child Drug Runners, telling of her desperation as she tried to stop her son getting sucked into the dangerous world of the gangs.

"It doesn't matter how good a parent you are, or whether you're a single mum, whether you're married, whatever, if they get hold of your kid there's nothing you can do about it," she told The Sun after appearing on the TV documentary.

"People used to say to me, 'Oh if it was my son I'd keep him in'.

"I tried everything - I locked the doors, I got a deadlock, I chased him down the street, I went round to dangerous people's houses.

"I felt totally and utterly helpless."

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