County lines heroin and crack cocaine dealer jailed for child trafficking
A county lines drug dealer who forced a London teenager to travel to Swansea to deal heroin and crack cocaine has been jailed for eight years, police said.
Jerome Wallis, 20, admitted arranging or facilitating the travel of a child with a view to exploit, contrary to the Modern Slavery Act.
South Wales Police say the conviction is the first of its kind in Wales and only the second in the UK.
Wallis, a convicted child rapist, also admitted to conspiring to supply both heroin and crack cocaine.
He was sentenced at Swansea Crown Court alongside Savion Browne, 25, who was jailed for six years after being convicted of the drugs conspiracy charges.
The court heard Wallis (pictured) and Browne, both from London, were part of a county lines operation and regularly travelled to Swansea to deal Class A drugs.
In July last year, a 15-year-old boy arrived at the front desk of Swansea Central police station and told officers he was missing from London and unable to get home.
Police said the boy provided “vital intelligence” that led officers to an address in the city, where both Wallis and Browne were arrested.
During a search of the address, officers found thousands of pounds in cash, knives and mobile phones.
Drugs with a potential street value of £4,000 had been thrown out of the window as the property was raided.
Detective constable Victoria Bayly, of South Wales Police, 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.”
Police said Wallis contacted the boy, who cannot be identified, on Snapchat and asked him to help sell drugs. The teenager refused but was told he had no choice.
On July 12, he met Wallis in a lane near Paddington Station and was told to get in his car. He was then driven to Swansea to complete drug deals.
The boy was threatened with violence and told he would have to stay in the city for a year after returning with less money than expected.
On July 16, Wallis returned to London to collect more drugs and the “minder” who had been sent to watch the boy briefly left the property where he was staying.
The boy approached a security guard at a supermarket for directions, then made his way to the police station.
Assistant chief constable Jonathan Drake, of South Wales Police, added: “Serious organised crime groups look to exploit the most vulnerable members of our communities and often target children to further their illegal trade; no more so is this seen than in county lines criminality.
“Prosecuting these offences can be difficult as victims are often too frightened to talk about their ordeal or because they themselves do not recognise that they have been exploited.
“It is a credit to the victim and all those involved that this conviction is the first of its kind in Wales and demonstrates the lengths that we will go to prosecute those that seek to exploit the vulnerable.”
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) South Wales Police.