Mulholland calls on co-ordinated cross-departmental effort to protect children from criminal exploitation

Alliance Spokesperson for Children and Young People, Sian Mulholland MLA, has raised concerns regarding the safeguarding of children at risk from exploitation following a BBC Spotlight investigation into child exploitation involving drug gangs.

Young people

Earlier this week Spotlight revealed that children as young as eight are being targeted by paramilitary criminal gangs to take and/or sell drugs. Those who have become addicted and can no longer afford to pay for their drug debts are then coerced into criminal or sexual activities such as rioting on our streets.

"It is clear that all children need protection from the paramilitary criminal gangs who are intent on exploiting and terrorising our communities," said the North Antrim MLA.

"Children and young people are suffering because they feel like there is no help available to them and so often, these children are most at risk because of circumstances beyond their control. It is obvious that these criminal gangs prey on vulnerable children and they must be held accountable and stopped.

"We can no longer hide behind the mask of paramilitarism; this is criminality and exploitation at its worst. We need a coordinated and cross-departmental effort between Government and agencies to protect our children and young people.

"We all have a duty to discharge our functions and cooperate with one another in order to contribute to the well-being of our children and young people. I therefore call on all Departments, statutory agencies and non-governmental bodies to commit to tackling paramilitary gangs together.”