A Gwynedd teenager groomed by a vicious county lines gang to become a drugs supplier has been sentenced to 18 months in youth custody.
The magistrates’ court heard that the youngster called Connor was snared by the gang after he started taking drugs himself and fell into debt.
After being threatened by the gang, he started supplying Class A drugs and was eventually arrested when he was found to be in possession of cocaine and a knife.
Although based on real events, this was actually a drama workshop organised as part of the pioneering Justice in a Day project.
The aim is to give young people a taste of how the criminal justice system works and the devastating effect crime can have on families and the community.
The day-long workshop was attended by Year 8 students from Ysgol Bro Idris in Dolgellau.
The project is backed by North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT) and Scottish Power Foundation and delivered by Wales’s leading producing theatre, Theatr Clwyd who are based in Mold.
At the heart of the story was the emerging threat of criminal gangs from major cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London have extended their drugs networks to the region.
The so-called county lines gangs coerce and threaten young people with violence to take part in illegal activity across the region.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones says the Justice in a Day is an important project that helps get criminal justice messages across to teenage students.
He said: “It’s vital experience for these students and will be delivered to more than 120 Year 8 pupils from across south Gwynedd over three days.
“If we are going to raise awareness of the issues surrounding county lines, drug crime and how older drug suppliers target, befriend and exploit young people then there is no better way than through this excellent project.
“This is the ninth year Justice in a Day has been delivered to teenage students across North Wales. That is thanks to the funding made available from the Scottish Power Foundation and PACT.
“However, the Scottish Power Foundation funding is now, after a decade, coming to an end and I certainly back Theatr Clwyd in their appeal to the private sector for financial support so this hugely important project can continue in the years ahead.”
He added: “It’s clear that Connor’s story, which is based on real-life events and court case, has a sobering effect on young people and drives home important messages in a way we couldn’t do just sat in a classroom.
“Justice in a Day is a project that has my full backing. It’s amazing to see how these young people really engage with the story and how they really concentrate and listen to every word the actors, magistrate and police officers say.”
Ysgol Bro Idris student Chelsea Jones, 13, said: “It was really good and made me think. You don’t have to live in a city to experience drugs and knife crime.
“These crimes can impact on us all and we need to learn the consequences of what can happen if we get involved in drug crime and what that can lead to. It certainly made me think.”
Fellow student Cai Evans, 13, said: “It was amazing and I learned so much about the criminal justice system. I had no idea about sentencing and what can happen to young people.
“It was a bit of a shock to be honest and really made me think what can happen if you are not careful.”
Dave Evans, PACT project manager, said: “There is a real benefit to young people and their communities and we are actually now seeing the demand for Justice in a Day exceeding what we can feasibly supply.
“PACT has been jointly funding the scheme alongside the Scottish Power Foundation but we only have limited funds.
“With Scottish Power Foundation funding now coming to an end it’s vital we find a new partner so we can continue delivering this important project.”
He added: “The Justice in a Day project is helping prevent young people from becoming victims by showing them just what can happen if they are targeted by drug dealers.”
Theatr Clwyd’s director of creative engagement, Gwennan Mair, said: “The actors tell the story. Students decided what they think the sentence should be but we have a real magistrate to deliver what was the actual sentence and explain why the court came to the decision it did.
“Connor is sent into youth detention for 18 months and we look at what happens and his experiences while locked up.
“It’s about talking to young people in a way they can understand and in their own language. It also helps explain what can happen if they get involved in county lines and drug crime and how it affects not just them but their family and friends.”
She added: “It is an amazing project Theatr Clwyd has delivered for almost a decade.
“There is no doubt it has had made a big difference and really helped thousands of young people learn about the criminal justice system and the dangers of getting involved in crime.”
Also taking part was Caernarfon magistrate Elfed ap Gomer who said: “The scheme is a real eye opener and a very good process.
“I feel it’s really important we continue to get this message across to as many young people as we can through this excellent project.”