Police have been accused of luring young people to commit crime after a "honey trap" pawn shop staffed by undercover officers was used to trade stolen goods. More than 100 people are believed to have been convicted, many for illegally trading passports and driving licences, at the covert Scotland Yard store in Cricklewood, north London.
Lawyers have condemned the ploy, claiming it may have encouraged young people to commit offences by giving the impression that they could make easy money by trading ID documents at the shop. Up to half of those convicted, they believe, had no serious history of criminality and some of those convicted sold their own passports or those of consenting relatives for up to £200 at the store, called TJ's Trading Post.
Jennifer Twite, policy adviser at Just for Kids Law, a legal charity that helps young people caught up in the criminal justice system, said: "It concerns me that this operation may have encouraged people to commit crime, which is damaging both to society and to those who may not have otherwise ever received a criminal record. Particularly unfortunate were those cases where people were selling their own passports or those who had never been in trouble before."
Shauneen Lambe, executive director of Just for Kids Law, said that the operation was costly to the taxpayer but that also a criminal record would limit job prospects for the young people who had been caught. "I believe a police force should exist to prevent crime, not create it. But this use of police resources is concerning to me not only as a lawyer for young people but also as a taxpayer." Lambe added: "The cost for imprisoning these people is likely to run into the millions let alone the increased costs of criminalising people who will now struggle, if they didn't before, to get employment. It seems to me to be a singular action driven by the police to show statistical success."