Vile practice of cuckooing to become a crime in its own right

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Cuckooing, a practice where criminal gangs take over the homes of vulnerable people in order to commit crime, will become an offence in its own right thanks to a new amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill.

Cuckooing involves criminal gangs targeting someone in their communities, usually those with addiction issues, the elderly or disabled, or those with learning difficulties, and either imprisoning them in their own homes, or throwing them out entirely.

The homes are then used to commit crimes such as making or dealing drugs, storing weapons or stolen goods, trafficking victims of the sex trade, and are often associated with county lines criminal exploitation.

Despite the devastating effect it has on those involved, cuckooing was never a crime in its own right, making it difficult to criminalise those involved.

MP, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who helped pass the amendment, said: “New clause 94 provides for a bespoke criminal offence to tackle cuckooing. The offence criminalises the control, whether exercised by means of coercion or otherwise, over another person’s home for the purpose of using it as a base to commit specified criminal activity.”

He added: “No longer will criminals be able to prosper by using vulnerable people’s homes to facilitate their crimes, leaving them living in fear.”

Helen Ball, CEO of Causeway, said: “We are very pleased to see this amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill that makes cuckooing an offence in its own right. Causeway has supported numerous survivors of this vile practice, many of whom were extremely traumatised by the violence they were subjected to, or threatened with.

I hope this new amendment will allow for faster intervention for vulnerable people when there is suspected abuse, and swift justice for those who take over people’s homes, the places where they should feel most safe.”

Causeway staff working in our modern slavery services have supported numerous victims of cuckooing, both in our safe houses and in our community outreach programmes.

Danny* was a British man in his 40s who developed a painkiller addiction following an accident at work that left him in constant pain and unable to continue working. When he was unable to get hold of codeine, he turned to heroin. Local drug dealers targeted him and took over his flat, beating him, and forcing him to smoke crack. For over a year they locked him in his room, and used his home to deal drugs, organise the trafficking of women forced into sex, and store stolen goods. He was eventually rescued by police who referred him to Causeway for support.


David* was a British man in his 50s with learning difficulties, a history of alcohol abuse, and addicted to painkillers.

David was known to local drug dealers, and following an accident that required him to be in hospital for a week, he returned home to find the locks on his doors had been changed. Once allowed in, he found the drug dealers had taken over his property to grow drugs. He was locked in his bedroom each day while they went about their business. He managed to run away, and lived on the streets, until eventually he attended a homelessness support centre who referred him to Causeway for support.


Eli* was born with a learning disability and a visual impairment during the civil war in Liberia. When he was a child, he saw his father kill his mother and sisters during a psychotic episode. He then hit Eli over the head with a hammer, causing a lasting brain injury. Eli was then taken in by a group of rebels who forced him to become a child soldier. Eventually he was rescued by his aunt who brought him to the UK.

Eli’s traumatic childhood and accompanying disabilities made him very vulnerable, but during the Covid pandemic, his social worker left and his support workers stopped visiting. A local gang took over his home and made him sleep on the floor. One day, the police found him in possession of class A drugs, which led to his arrest. Despite his vulnerabilities, the police believed he was leading the gang’s drug operation, however, after two months of telling the police he was innocent, they referred him into the NRM and he entered Causeway’s services.