Children in London 'tortured, stabbed and raped' in brutal gang 'initiations'

8 January 2020, 14:05 | Updated: 9 January 2020, 10:48

Young person holding knife.
Children in London are suffering violent gang initiations. Picture: PA
Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

Gang leaders are using brutal tactics, including torture, stabbings and even rapes to initiate children into gangs across London, an LBC investigation has found.

Gang leaders are using increasingly violent initiations to recruit young people into county lines drug gangs, and often start grooming children from a young age with offers of gifts, money and friendship.

However, these relationships can quickly turn to threats and in many cases acts of brutal violence including stabbings, torture and even rape.

LBC spoke to Sandra, whose son was initiated into a gang when he was still a teenager.

She said her son was stabbed "more than twice" by men he described as being his "own side" as a test to join the gang.

"When I say that he got stabbed more than twice, two of them were what I would call in certain places," she said.

"Another time was the fact that it was very, very severe.

"I mean, we're talking the way they prepared and what they used to attack my son. It was a completely different process to the first two times.

She continued: "Injuries that were designed to hurt to humiliate, but not to kill. I do believe the first time probably was initiation."

And says her son wasn't the only one who suffered this sort of "initiation".

"I know that it wasn't just my son. It was a lot of children that have been affected, been tortured some way or somehow.

"So if I give you an example, being stabbed in the hands, that seems to be quite a common one, being stabbed in the foot, being stabbed in the buttocks, being chopped in the head, being burnt by cigarettes. That's just to name a few."

She also explained that the children will often refuse medical attention, and that parents have to accept this as "part and parcel of them going through torture".

"I know some that got infected and pretty much ready to pass out where it needed medical attention because they left it that long."

Acting Detective Superintent Jim McKee, who leads on gang violence in London, told LBC that police are aware of this happening, but it's hard to build up a clear picture of how widespread it is.

"It is really is a terrible example of the brutality of the gangs not just to their rivals, but actually to their own members.

"That kind of recruitment is one of inducement, and then threats, and then real violence and it's that kind of gradation up to more serious kinds of violence to include somebody in a gang, and torture can sometimes be part of that.

"It just really demonstrates just the brutality of gang lifestyle, that these individuals who recruit these young men are actually prepared to commit really extreme, horrible violence against anybody."

National Crime Agency figures estimate that there are about 2,000 lines for drug dealing, fuelling an 807% increase in the number of child victims of modern slavery since 2014.

The Children’s Commissioner estimates “27,000 children in England identify as a gang member, only a fraction of whom are known to children’s services”.

A 2019 assessment by the National Crime Agency estimated that county lines activities throughout the UK generates roughly £500 million for gang leaders every year.