Cuckoo’d addict ‘made to eat dog food and lick boots of drug dealers’
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A judge has decried the appalling tactics of county lines drug gangs in taking over the homes of vulnerable people.
Judge Martyn Levett was sentencing a female drug user for possession of heroin and criminal cash found at her home last summer.
The woman had initially been charged with being concerned in the supply of class A drugs but was convicted at Ipswich Crown Court of possession offences and handed a suspended prison sentence on Thursday.
Police raided the property as part of a crackdown on county lines activity in Colchester after observing comings and goings indicative of drug dealing.
The court heard she had been effectively cuckoo’d from her home and subjected to a considerable amount of degrading treatment, including having a dustbin tipped over her head, being threatened with knives, and being made to eat cat food and lick the boots of gang members from the dealing line known as ‘Rico’.
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Two other local women were said to have been stripped and branded with heated tongs.
Officers found a single wrap of heroin inside the property, along with drug paraphernalia and £545 in cash on top of a coffee table.
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Prosecutors accepted the woman, in her 30s, had been subject to a degree of pressure and exploitation – and that the money was to be collected from the address as proceeds from the sale of heroin and crack cocaine.
The court heard an interim determination had been made, and a final determination was due to take place, as to whether the woman was a potential victim of trafficking.
Judge Levett found that she had performed a limited role, under direction, for which she received drugs as payment.
She was said to have stopped using street drugs and started a course of detoxification using methadone.
Judge Levett said he wanted the public to realise the degrading techniques used by gangs to influence the behaviour of vulnerable people.
He added: “I believe you are a vulnerable lady who felt she had no choice but to follow instructions.
“There was undoubtedly a willingness on your part, because you received drugs, but the Rico line has set up dealing from many premises of people who are addicted to drugs and may have been cuckoo’d or displaced.
“I have to accept that you were exploited, and that any resistance you put up meant you would get more abuse.”
The woman was handed a seven-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, with 30 days of rehabilitation activity requirement to help her resist any further exploitation.
Judge Levett directed that the seized cash be used specifically for combating drug crime in the Colchester area.