Warnings from Norma Hornby and James Keeley about the risks of using children as spies in undercover police investigations

The fact that police are using children as spies in covert operations can only raise a number of concerns about child exploitation (Report, 20 July). There is a fine line between this practice and the police investigations into “county lines” which involve the use of children and vulnerable young people by drug dealers in their distribution systems.

Children and young people are particularly at risk from exploitation or entrapment in illegal activities because youth services, local charities and outreach services have been decimated. Lack of access to legitimate and challenging outdoor activities during weekends and holiday periods is leaving many young people bored and vulnerable to temptation. The involvement of police in introducing these impressionable young people to the criminal world as covert spies is both unsafe and poor practice. The county lines engagement of young people in drug distribution operates on the same principles and, in my opinion, both are high risk in terms of grooming young people for the world of crime.
Norma Hornby
Warrington, Cheshire

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