Young man forced to sell drugs beats depression to start new life

Jim’s exploitation began when he was introduced to a father and son through a friend. He had seen them around but didn’t know much about them.

“They knew I was really interested in cars,” he said. “They offered me a car and said all I needed to do was pay them £50 per week. The car was worth around £3,500, I had never been able to afford anything like this in my life so I jumped straight in.”

Jim began using his weekly wages to pay the £50 debt.

“Suddenly the payment was £100 a week,” he said. “Then it got upped again. I couldn’t afford it by this point, which I told them, but they said ‘you owe us this’. They gave me a bag and told me to take it to a certain location. I didn’t look in the bag but I had an idea of what was in there. By this point I had realised they were dangerous, so I did as they told me as I wanted to avoid trouble. After I had delivered it, the bag went missing.

“They then told me the bag had contained over £20,000 worth of cannabis and cocaine. They said I now owed them this and the car money!

“They were bullies, I had seen how they treated people. They portrayed themselves as gangsters. I had never been in a situation like this and I wanted to keep my family safe, I felt I had no choice.”

The gang said they wanted £500 a week from Jim, forcing him to deal cannabis and cocaine. The ‘debt’ continued to spiral out of control, to the point where Jim was told he now owed £7,500 per week. He was working 16 hours a day for them, dealing drugs.

“A couple of years passed, and during this time I met my current partner,” said Jim. “We moved into a house together but they were coming into my house bringing bullets and drugs. I hated it, they had robbed me of my life.”

During this time, Jim estimated that he had given the gang around £70,000, but they still said he owed them money.

Packages the gang gave him were ‘stolen’ three times- a strategy used by the gang to keep Jim in debt.

“Each time this happened, they said I now owed them more money, so I would carry on working for them in fear.”

When Jim’s partner fell pregnant, he realised he couldn’t go on living like this.

“At my lowest point, I attempted to commit suicide. I told them I didn’t want this lifestyle.”

The gang threatened to kill Jim and hurt his family. It was the final straw, and he went to the police, who referred him into the NRM (National Referral Mechanism- Government’s support system for survivors of Modern Slavery).

“My City Hearts caseworker completely changed my view on everything,” Jim said. “I started seeing the positive in things, and started to believe we had a fresh start. I felt my partner was supported too, we stayed in a safe house for four months.

“I can’t thank my caseworker enough for everything he’s done for me. If I’m having a bad day he listens, that’s the best thing for me. I know he does everything to support me, and it’s because he cares, he cares about his job and about me. He listens and advises any way he can, he is always there, no matter what it is. The best thing I ever did was come into the NRM, I couldn’t have done this on my own.”

With the support of his caseworker, Jim has since found employment.

“My caseworker took me to my interview. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gone that day because of my anxiety. I really enjoy my job, it’s tiring but I wouldn’t change it. The people I work with are all brilliant.

“I’m not completely there, but I feel like I am finally learning to be me, learning who I am. My life is now positive, I am happy to wake up every single day. I couldn’t have predicted how my life would change.”