DRUGS gangs are mimicking the techniques of Oxford's notorious paedophile rings to incite vulnerable children into committing crimes, according to a top judge.

Peter Ross, who sits in Oxford Crown Court, told an audience of teachers and those who work with young people that children across Oxfordshire are at an ever increased risk of being groomed into dealing by so-called 'county lines' gangs.

Speaking alongside fellow judge Ian Pringle, he said: "The grooming techniques that Ian and I have seen when we’ve tried the big grooming trials here in Oxford are used in relation to young children by the county line and general gangs.

"This includes flattery, treating them as special, giving them alcohol and cannabis, making them feel wanted and valued.

"These will inevitably be vulnerable children – those with problems at home, sometimes in care.

"These are the same as the profiles of those in the big grooming cases we have seen in the last three years.

"Exactly the same children with the same vulnerabilities are being identified by these gangs."

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Judge Ross was speaking as part of a 'Getting Court' event, an initiative that takes young people into Oxford's courts to see justice unfolding.


He said drugs were responsible for a 'procession of human wreckage' coming in front of his court, leaving people at risk of losing their limbs or 'on the verge of death'.

Up to 95 per cent of all thefts, burglaries and robberies were committed by addicts trying to raise money to fuel their habit, according to the judge.

He told the group about a case of a 15-year-old boy, seen recently in Oxford, which 'painted a picture' of huge significance for the county.

The boy was on the fringes of an organised crime group and wanted to gain credibility and promotion, according to Judge Ross.

He saw two users who owed the gang money and decided to threaten them with a knife, eventually stabbing one of the men leaving him with wounds to the upper arm and stomach.

That boy is now in jail for a long time, the judge said, as he warned of an increase in children in front of the courts over the last 12 months.

He told the teachers about signs to look out for that pupils may be getting involved in drug dealing including having a large number of pieces of paper with phone numbers printed on, owning a low quality mobile phone, visiting places where drug users are known to congregate and making trips to other cities outside of the county.

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Police have been growing increasingly concerned about the extent of county line drug dealing in Oxford in recent years.

Gangs from larger cities including London, Birmingham and Bristol are known to have set up in the city and prey on vulnerable people in order to deal from their homes.

Judge Ross said he had tried four county lines dealers in one week recently and had dealt with a case in Bicester in which one gang sold their entire 'business' to another.