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Cuckooing Crackdown: Home Secretary's Strategy

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Home Secretary James Cleverly has announced plans to introduce a new standalone offence which intends to crack down on the act of cuckooing.

We explain what cuckooing is and what changes are due to be implemented in the following article.

While we hope this information is useful, please note that it should not be taken as legal advice. If you need legal support with allegations related to cuckooing or county lines drug offences, then please get in touch and our team can advise you.

What does cuckooing mean?

Cuckooing is a term used to describe the act of an individual or gang taking control of someone’s home and using the premises as a location for criminal activity, often as part of a county-line operation.

The victims of cuckooing are often vulnerable and targeted for this reason. In many cases, victims are likely to have a learning disability, be affected by drug and/or mental health issues or live alone without a support network.

What is the impact of cuckooing?

Addressing the issue of cuckooing has been a major priority for the government. The Home Secretary described it as “a vile practice where cruel and opportunistic criminals prey on the most vulnerable.”

In early 2024, a week-long operation by the police saw them raid over 1,200 addresses which had been forcibly taken over by drug gangs.

Prior to the recent announcement by Mr Cleverly, there have been several campaigns for the introduction of cuckooing as a standalone criminal offence, including one from Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

How do the police currently deal with cuckooing?

Prior to the announcement that the law is being updated, Cuckooing was not a standalone offence in the UK. This meant that cuckooing comprised of various other offences which campaigners believed did not necessarily reflect the harm that could potentially be caused.

How does cuckooing relate to county lines?

Cuckooing is often closely associated with county lines drug offences. County lines refer to the use of children and vulnerable adults to traffic drugs into rural areas. The practice typically involves children travelling across counties, often carrying drugs or cash from and to major cities such as London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, with the criminal activity organised via mobile phones.

The properties used in acts of cuckooing often serve as a base for county line operations.

What is the new offence of cuckooing?

Cuckooing will be a criminal offence after the Government tabled a new amendment to The Criminal Justice Bill (Clause 94).

Introducing the amendment in Parliament, Victims and Safeguarding Minister Laura Farris stated: “This offence criminalises the control, whether exercised by means of coercion or otherwise, over a person’s home for the purpose of using it as a base to commit specified criminal activity.”

What will be the maximum sentence for cuckooing crime?

The maximum sentence for cuckooing will be five years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.

However, it is important to note that this only considers the act of cuckooing itself. If someone is also accused of additional criminal offences alongside cuckooing, such as the production or supply of drugs, they could face additional punishments.

What should you do if you are accused of cuckooing?

When officially introduced, the potential punishments for cuckooing will be extremely serious. Having expert legal advice on your side when facing such an accusation will be extremely important.

Our specialist criminal defence solicitors have over 45 years of experience in handling complex and serious cases, including those related to cuckooing and county lines drug offences. Regardless of what your circumstances may be, our team will be on hand to provide tailored advice that helps to secure the best possible outcome for your case. This could mean having charges dropped altogether, or a sentence lowered if conviction is unavoidable.

We are highly skilled at dealing with all forms of evidence that are used in these types of cases, including forensic evidence, digital evidence and witness testimony. We have all of the tools and knowledge to build a strong defence case, identify any flaws in the case against you and ensure that any evidence that supports your position is clearly identified.

We have been accredited by the Law Society for Criminal Litigation. This, coupled with our extensive experience means that we can demonstrate a strong track record of previous success. This has also allowed us to establish strong relationships with many of the country’s leading criminal defence barristers.

If you are facing an accusation of cuckooing, we are here to provide you with the support you need.

Related matters:

We also provide support and guidance on various related matters, including:

Our related cases

Fees and funding

When you work with our team, we will always be open and transparent about the fees involved in your case.

If you need to attend court after being charged with cuckooing, Legal Aid may become available. Whether this is possible will depend on a means test, and whether the grant of public funding is justified.

Where you do not qualify for Legal Aid, the alternative will be to fund the case on a private basis.          

To find out more about the way we handle fees (both legal aid public funding and private fees) for cuckooing, please use the links provided below:

Contact our criminal defence lawyers today

If you are due to attend the police station, require any urgent specialist advice, or immediate representation for allegations of cuckooing, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can contact our dedicated criminal defence lawyers in London, Birmingham, and Manchester by telephone on:

Or email: solicitors@jdspicer.co.uk

Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form, and we will get back to you quickly.

24/7 legal representation for cuckooing

Please get in touch for a free consultation with one of our expert criminal defence solicitors, as well as immediate representation and advice for cuckooing.

We are available to represent clients all over England and Wales at any time, so please contact our Emergency Number at 07836 577 556.

Bespoke Private Fee Service

If you believe your case is likely to have serious consequences for you now, or in the future and you have the means to pay for this service

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How can we help?

Common questions

We always work with the most experienced and best leading UK barristers, KCs (Kings Counsel). We cover all criminal cases 24/7 at the police station and court. Offices in London, Birmingham, and Manchester cover cases across England and Wales. We can offer Legal Aid and affordable Private fee agreements. We can see you the same day, including virtually. Our Senior Partners supervise all of our cases.

How quickly do you respond?

We respond quickly even during out of hours. We do not get our work by paying for online adverts but based on the fact that few criminal law firms can match our 45 years of experience. Most of our cases are still from word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients. We are called daily by dissatisfied clients from firms with less experience than us. We respond very quickly to new enquiries. We know what clients seek and so we update clients rapidly.

Can you get cases dropped?

Yes, read about the recent cases we've helped our clients with here.

We always keep you updated and give straightforward advice. We will get cases dropped early where the case is weak or should not be prosecuted. We will be upfront with you about where you can benefit from a good result with an early guilty plea, such as a discount on your sentence. As we work on cases across all levels with clients from all walks of life, we are excellent at giving clear, spot-on advice. As an established firm, we can allocate a whole team to your case often at short notice to secure evidence to minimise the damage to you. 

Have you won any awards?


"JD Spicer Zeb demonstrated a clear commitment to client service through their work with vulnerable and diverse individuals in what can be severely traumatic circumstances".

Do you offer free consultations?

Where it is possible, we aim to provide an initial consultation to you. If we can speak to you, we can if required inform you about  –

  • Whether we can take the case on and our relevant experience.
  • Public and private funding benefits.
  • Assistance in applying for legal aid where we are likely to accept instructions.
  • An outline of options in police interview only. We will not advise you on which option to adopt.
  • Providing our free written guide explaining the police station process.
  • The gravity of routine and day-to-day offences you face.
  • Consequences of not attending the court or police station.
  • Consequences of interfering with any witnesses.
  • Retaining any evidence in support of your case.
  • If possible an outline of the elements of the offence that the police or CPS must prove.
  • This consultation will normally be by telephone or email and will only be for as long as we deem necessary to establish if we can act for you. If we cannot usefully give you any advice in this manner then we will not continue with the consultation. We will not discuss the case in depth for you to be able to decide on your plea or any significant aspect of the case, as this cannot be undertaken informally.
  • Referring you, if possible, to other firms for matters out of our specialism or if we cannot help.

Consultations do not apply to the following cases –

  • If we do not intend to take the case on.
  • Road Traffic cases, drink driving, drug driving, driving bans, speeding, no insurance, mobile phone use, points etc.
  • In all cases where we do not have the capacity to take your case or the availability of suitably qualified staff to provide an initial free consultation. This is applicable in all cases but especially where a more senior lawyer is required because of your personal needs or the complexity of the case.
  • Harassment/stalking/ coercive behaviour/malicious communications or road traffic cases and most sensitive cases. These cases are often too complicated to assess in short consultations.
  • The locations concerned may be too distant to represent you adequately or it may not be cost-effective for you or us.
  • The case is too complicated to assess or raises various charges or facts, complexity, or history to be considered informally or in a short consultation.
  • In most Legal aid transfers where legal aid is granted to another firm except in very grave cases, we may assess the case and merits for a transfer.
  • If your relationship has broken down with your existing solicitor or several solicitors.
  • If you have been released under investigation and have already had a police station attendance. 
  • If you hold legal aid with another firm and seek a second opinion.
  • If you are calling on behalf of the client as a friend or family member unless you have full authority and full facts.
  • To businesses.
  • Advising whether you were given good advice by your other solicitor.
  • Whether to decide to plead guilty or not guilty.
  • Whether you have an arguable defence in law or factually complicated defences.
  • Any advice you have had after your first court appearance.
  • Any advice on appeal on conviction or sentence.
  • If we feel we are unable to communicate with you.
  • If we are likely to be conflicted or breach our professional rules.