A DEALER who employed children to sell crack cocaine and heroin for his drugs gang has been jailed for four years. 

An investigation into Liam Atkins, of Ashanti Close, Shoebury, found he had attempted to recruit a number of young people and two children were working for him to sell Class A drugs. 

A raid at the 24-year-old's home led to the seizure of cash as well as a phone which was linked to running the "pedro" drugs line which was involved in the sale of crack cocaine and heroin in Southend
In custody - Liam AtkinsIn custody - Liam Atkins (Image: Essex Police)


On his personal phone, police found messages relating to sourcing teenagers and children to sell drugs.

Atkins was charged with, and admitted, being concerned in the supply of heroin and crack cocaine. 

Following the sentencing, Essex Police has slammed anyone who exploits children to take on the "dangerous and risky" role of selling drugs. 


Some of the cash seized by policeSome of the cash seized by police (Image: Essex Police)


Ac Det Insp Rob Maile, of Op Raptor South, said: “A common feature we find time and time again in these cases is the distancing of those running the line from the active running and selling of drugs on the street.

“The dangerous and risky work is undertaken by those they can either exploit or enlist with the, often false, promise of financial gain or reward.

“Sadly, this often leads to the recruitment of children  either easily influenced or coerced into working with those holding the drug line phone.

“We are working hard to address this cruel reality. We have specialist safeguarding officers within Operation Raptor, who work to identify those being exploited.


Some of the drugs seizedSome of the drugs seized (Image: Essex Police)


“Children coerced or threatened into running drugs for lines like the ‘Pedro’ line will be treated as victims.

“Those committed to criminality and exploiting others will be dealt with using the full powers available to us.

“The courts rightly take a strict stance on those involved in organised drug dealing.”

A sentencing hearing at Basildon Crown Court on Friday heard he held "a management" role in the drugs operation however it was accepted senior dealer may have been involved at a higher level. 

It was taken as an aggravating factor that he used children to deliver drugs.