LONDON: Children as young as 12 have been arrested for dealing hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine, new figures have revealed.
More than two thirds of UK police forces which responded to a freedom of information request said they had held under-16s on suspicion of selling class A drugs.
It received responses from 35 forces, 71% of whom had arrested children on suspicion of dealing crack, heroin or cocaine.
According to the report, 22 forces had arrested children under the age of 14 on suspicion of class A drug dealing offences.
In one recorded example, a 13-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of dealing crack and heroin in Norwich.
A boy of 12 was also arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply a Class A drug in Dorset, but police did not recover any substances.
The revelations came as a parliamentary report said children and teenagers from middle-class families are being groomed to sell drugs by criminal gangs.
It said youngsters from “stable and economically better-off” backgrounds are at risk of being drawn in and exploited by urban crime networks.
The report from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Runaway and Missing Children and Adults followed warnings that children are being used in a drug distribution model known as “county lines”.
This typically involves city gangs branching out into county or coastal towns to sell heroin and crack cocaine.
They deploy children and vulnerable people as couriers to move drugs and cash between the new market and their urban hub.