Lost on the line: The county lines gangs recruiting girls
New figures have revealed at least four thousand young people are currently caught up in county lines – meeting orders for heroin and cocaine placed on mobile phone ‘deal lines’. They’re transporting drugs from cities to rural and coastal towns, and carrying weapons too – knives, hammers and acid.
Many find themselves selling drugs in a strange town. Trapped, too scared to leave. Increasingly, when police raid the ‘traphouses’ where the drugs are held, they’re finding girls. But how many young women are caught in the county lines? Some are being recruited online for their ‘clean skins’ - a lack of a criminal or gang connection – so they’re less likely to be known to police and stopped. Others are used to launder money or facilitate travel and accommodation.
The focus on boys working for the lines means girls have often been overlooked. Police chiefs guess 10 to 15% of children involved are girls. But they admit they have no real idea of the number of girls trapped in this violent world.
File on 4 hears the female view from the county line, told by girls and women who’ve lived the life and witnessed serious violence. They reveal the particular reasons gangs want girls involved, as county lines become more sophisticated. Girls are less likely to be stopped, or undergo intimate searches by police. They are trapped through sexual violence and threats to kill. But with few projects offering specialist support to female members of county lines, are girls more at risk of being dragged back into the gangs?
Reporter, Jane Deith
Producer, Emma Forde
Editor, Carl Johnston
Image credit; cindygoff\Getty
Can sex offenders and violent criminals be rehabilitated in prison?
The decision to scrap the Sex Offender Treatment Programme raised major concerns about the rehabilitation of prisoners and the impact on victims. The scheme was replaced five years after initial research suggested it wasn’t working - and might even increase the risk of re-offending. There are now calls to ensure that other courses, including those which cater for violent offenders, are properly evaluated.
Campaigners claim the system for assessing the effectiveness of such programmes is too secretive and needs to be made more open. Some experts believe there’s been an over-reliance on treatment schemes as a way of calculating the risks posed by prisoners. Victims say some prisoners are playing the system – accessing programmes to convince the authorities they’re safe to be released. Former inmates say education and training are more likely to stop offenders returning to a life of crime, while there’s emerging evidence that providing newly-released prisoners with support in the community is the key.
Reporter Danny Shaw
Producer Nicola Dowling
Editor Carl Johnston
Photo credit; Motortion\Getty
Families versus the state: An unfair fight?
Julie Montacute-Carter (pictured left) was found drowned in a lake after suffering from depression for many years. But when it came to the inquest into her death it fell to her daughter Becky Montacute to represent the family at the start of the inquest process - and then find and fund a lawyer herself. All because the family could not get Legal Aid. The mental health trust responsible for Julie's care however was able to spend tens of thousands of pounds in legal representation. Critics call this an 'inequality of arms' and there are concerns vital lessons aren't being learned because many families can't afford to pay for legal representation to challenge state bodies like the NHS, the police and the prison service.
Reporter: Hayley Hassall
Producer: Mick Tucker
Development Producer: Oliver Newlan
Editor: Carl Johnston
The therapy business
When BBC reporter Jordan Dunbar sought help for his mental health he was told he'd face a long wait on the NHS. So like thousands of others he decided to go private.
In this edition of File on 4 Jordan reveals how one shockingly bad experience made him question what protection the largely under-regulated therapy industry gives its patients. He discovers there are no laws against anyone operating as a therapist, psychotherapist or a counsellor in the UK. Many have set themselves up after completing cheap online courses and, as the NHS struggles to cope with demand, the private therapy business is booming. But Jordan discovers at the same time there's been an increase in the number of serious complaints made against psychotherapists and counsellors and finds gaps in the system of regulation for those professionals in whom we entrust our mental health.
Reporter - Jordan Dunbar
Producer - Rob Cave
Editor - Carl Johnston
Image credit; Jane Winder
Harassed students ‘re-victimised’ by universities
File on 4 exposes serious flaws in the way many universities mismanage reports of sexual assaults and harassment and how some students believe they’re re-victimised and bullied into keeping their complaints quiet.
Up until three years ago the guidelines for universities said sexual misconduct should never be investigated internally. But in 2016 guidelines published by Universities UK, encouraged universities to take on these cases in-house as civil matters, with allegations to be examined on ‘the balance of probabilities’, rather than the criminal court standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. But students tell reporter Fiona Foster how they believe universities are more interested in protecting their reputation than their students and serial offenders are still at large. Even when perpetrators are dealt with, they’re often given derisory punishments.
The Office For Students says it has invested more than two million pounds in initiatives to work out ways of addressing the issue and that it has seen evidence of some universities managing complaints effectively. The organisation says if it sees evidence of a university not dealing with complaints it has the power to intervene.
Reporter: Fiona Foster
Producer: Kate West
Editor: Carl Johnston
Image credit; Christopher Furlong\Getty