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Suspected ''cuckoos'' thrown out of nest after council action

Suspected "cuckoos" thrown out after council action

27 January 2023
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a council house with the door boarded up and official notices pasted on the door and windows

Three suspected drug dealers have been kicked out of a council house in Wokingham where it's believed they were living without permission while exploiting the tenant for personal gain.


Wokingham Borough Council and Thames Valley Police joined forces to secure a partial closure order on the property, on the town's Norreys estate, which runs until 6 April.


During this time, only specific people including council staff or police officers may enter while anyone else will be actively pursued for prosecution, which has happened with past closures in the borough.


The authorities will regularly visit to check no-one is breaching the order and have pledged to work together to crack down on this problem across the borough.


Decisive action to prevent criminal abuse


The trio occupying the property, who had links to the borough but weren’t tenants, were arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences and being concerned in the supply of class A drugs. They are now subject to a criminal investigation by the police.


This is believed to have been a case of "cuckooing", in which criminals move in to someone's home and then increasingly abuse and control them, usually using violence or threats.


Members of the public reported concerns to the council about the property, including unfamiliar people coming and going at all hours or loitering outside. It had become a magnet for nuisance noise, with doors banging and other disturbances day and night.

The council's community safety team worked closely with the police to respond to these reports, who visited unannounced on 3 January and found the three suspects inside. Both organisations worked together to secure the partial closure order at Reading Magistrates' Court on 6 January.


The council is still actively working to protect the tenant's mental and physical wellbeing.


A growing problem but we're on the case


Perpetrators of cuckooing are often linked to unscrupulous “county lines” gangs moving drugs from London to sell in surrounding regions. Their victims may often be vulnerable due to addictions or mental or physical health problems.


The perpetrators may know the victim, who may even see them as “friends”, and will slowly take control of every aspect of their lives – where they go, who they talk to and when they may enter or leave their own home. They may claim the victim owes a debt and use this to justify their behaviour.


The council is aware of a growing number of incidents of this in the borough, and shares residents’ concerns.


Its community safety team is making it a priority to stamp this out  and has drawn up an action plan, in partnership with the police, that identifies a small minority of people and properties causing harassment, alarm and distress to the majority of law abiding residents.


Speak up now to protect the vulnerable


Cllr Ian Shenton, executive member for environment, sport and leisure, said: “We will not let people get away with this horrific crime, which causes huge suffering to those least able to protect themselves, and encourage anyone who suspects it's happening to report it.


“Victims' lives become totally controlled so we're working with the police and other organisations to ensure they're supported after their ordeal ends - whether that's help with an addiction, social isolation, housing, a mental health problem or something else.


“It's hard to face the fact that your 'friends' have exploited you and some victims don't have anybody else to turn to, so it's paramount that we offer that lifeline and prevent further harm as they readjust to normal life.


“We know this is causing concern in parts of our borough where it's happening, so we want to reassure the public that this is firmly on our radar. This month's partial closure order is just another step in a much wider campaign to tackle the problem.”


Where to go for help


In some cases of cuckooing, once the authorities are involved, courts may grant a full closure order which means nobody can go inside the property for a fixed period. The council may also take legal action relating to tenancies where reports of drugs or anti-social behaviour are involved.


Anyone who is worried for their own situation, or that of someone else, should contact the police on the 101 non-emergency number or dial 999 if they believe there is an immediate danger. Alternatively, they can report concerns to the police online.


To report issues with anti-social behaviour, contact the council’s in-house team or visit its website for more information.

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