Women forced to commit crime could avoid gang-related prosecutions

Gang members are starting relationships with women and girls to sell drugs from their homes, prosecutors have warned.

Dec 16, 2020
By Website Editor
Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC

New legal guidance published on Wednesday (December 16) aims to address the increasing number of females involved in gang-related crimes.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) document advises lawyers to consider if there is evidence they have been forced or groomed into committing an offence.

Claire Lindley, CPS lead on serious violence, said victims could avoid charges if they have been involved in criminal activity but added the guidance was not a “blanket” ban on prosecuting vulnerable people including women and girls.

“Gang-related violence is a blight on our communities and this guidance will help steer the effective prosecution of those who commit these sickening crimes,” she said.

“But it is vital we look into the evidence behind that involvement, especially where vulnerable women and girls are concerned to assess if they have been forced or groomed into committing crimes.

“We see cases of some being sexually assaulted, beaten, and controlled, and in some cases, prostituted for sexual favours or for payment for drugs.

“Criminal gangs often prey on vulnerable people – some are forced into debt bondage, or face being stabbed or shot if they go to the police or a rival gang.

“We must also recognise that some women and girls may be complicit in this offending which is why our expert prosecutors are trained to look at the evidence provided by police to identify when prosecution is appropriate.”

The “decision-making in ‘gang’ related offences” guidance has been drawn up by the CPS for lawyers gathering evidence to put before the courts.

It covers gang culture, the use of drill music and social media as well as recruitment tactics used by county lines drug dealers – a model which often sees young and vulnerable people used as couriers to move drugs and cash between cities and smaller towns.

“Some gang members enter into relationships with women and girls who they control, coerce and subject to domestic abuse,” it states.

“In county lines, a trend has been seen where gang members enter into a relationship with a female, and then use her address for dealing drugs.

“The females become intimidated by the gang member and continue with the relationship through fear.

“They may be controlled through coercive or abusive behaviour to the point that they are used for prostitution.”

The guidance also outlines how drill music and social media is being used to glamorise the gang lifestyle and the use of weapons.

But the country’s top prosecutor said there must be enough evidence to prove gang involvement before applying the label in court.

Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “Our prosecutors know the damage that gang-related crime can cause and where gang membership is part of the offence we will present the strongest possible evidence in court to make that clear‎.

“But we also have a duty to present clear and accurate information in court, and if there is no evidence someone is in a gang then it would be prejudicial, and wrong, to suggest gang involvement without evidence.”

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