Posted: 17 January 2020

Bringing 'county lines' to prime time Channel 4

This year, Hollyoaks will tackle the issue of child criminal exploitation through county lines and our project workers and policy team have been advising on the storyline.

What is county lines?

 ‘County lines’ is a form of criminal exploitation when gangs and organized crime networks groom children to sell drugs. Often these children are made to travel across counties and use phone lines to supply the drugs.

The National Crime Agency estimates that the number of deal lines has more than doubled to around 2,000 in the last year. Hollyoaks wants to get beyond these statistics and look at the impact on children and their families.

Telling real stories

We know from our tackling exploitation work that county lines can have a devastating impact on young lives. Our project workers have been working closely with Hollyoaks’ writers, researchers and cast members to ensure the story is told sensitively and authentically.

Hollyoaks’ Executive Producer notes, ‘county lines child exploitation is terrifying and every month the writers come in telling stories of their children’s schools on lockdown, or weapons being confiscated.’

‘We want young people and parents to know the signs and what to do if you think it’s happening to your child or someone they know.’

See our county lines and child criminal exploitation resources

Any child can be exploited

 Our county lines research has shown that children as young as seven are being put in danger by criminals. Any child can be exploited, no matter their background.

Our Chief Executive, Mark Russell says ‘This can happen to any child in any community and we applaud the bold move by Hollyoaks to shine a light upon this serious issue by bringing it to a fictional suburb of what is seen as a relatively affluent city’.

Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with first look screenings at 7pm on E4.

If you would like more information on county lines or you are a concerned parent, please see our child criminal exploitation resources

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