A NORTH Swindon 15-year-old was the youngest boy arrested by police for drug dealing in the town this year, the Adver can reveal.

The youngster, who was stopped in January, was arrested on suspicion of dealing cannabis. No further action was taken against the teen.

Figures obtained exclusively by Wiltshire Police show that eight under-18s have been charged or cautioned since April 2017 for dealing drugs. They included two youngsters who in July 2019 were summonsed to court for peddling class A drugs.

Across the county, 19 youngsters have been charged or cautioned for supplying the illegal substances.

Since 2017, a total of 55 children were charged or cautioned for knife possession in Swindon alone. Wiltshire-wide, the figure is 91.

Sonja Leith, the force’s head of crime prevention, told the Adver: “Like every other police force up and down the country, we are working hard to combat all levels of drug dealing – from organised crime gangs, such as County Lines networks, to more locally led drug groups.

“Irrespective of the level, both bring with them drugs, violence and disorder which we will never tolerate in Swindon or in the rest of Wiltshire.

"There is no easy or quick fix to this issue and although police enforcement is effective in some instances it’s not always the most appropriate solution.

“Cross border policing, targeted operations dedicated units, proactive patrols, closure orders and early intervention for young people are some of a number of tools we can use but it has to be a multi-agency response in order to best reach those who really need our help.

"Education and so prevention is key and we are working with our colleagues in the local authorities, schools and safeguarding to provide information and highlight the dangers of drugs and knives.”

It came as police raided a home in Stratton last week following reports of drug dealing at Kingsdown School.

Police said they had received intelligence of up to 40 youngsters dealing cocaine and cannabis at the school, allegedly supplied by two teen lieutenants and run by an older man in his mid-20s. A 27-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of possession of a class B drug with intent to supply and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Separately, Swindon magistrates heard the sad case of a boy, 17, exploited by adult dealers into selling drugs. The teen was on a national police watch list of suspected modern slavery victims, while officers had instructions to arrest drug dealers effectively on suspicion of kidnap if they were spotted with the boy.

Angus Macpherson, police and crime commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, stressed the importance of early intervention.

“It is a major part of partnership working - getting to the youngsters before they turn to use a knife or take drugs - destroying someone else's life and also their own,” he said.