Following the pleas for the Lords to pass an amendment to the Modern Slavery Act, its proposer, Lord McColl of Dulwich, outlines exactly why he is tabling the amendment and why it is so crucial.

If you ask someone what they know about cuckoos, they will probably tell you what they are most famed for – as parasites, laying their eggs in other birds' nests at the cost of the host's offspring. Less known is that they are highly secretive birds and use their calls to demonstrate ownership of a territory.

It is not surprising, then, that their reputation gives name to a particularly wicked criminal act – cuckooing. It is where an offender, or criminal gang, takes over a person's home and uses it to enslave and exploit their victim.

The crime is most common, and on the rise, among drug gangs, many involved in what is known as county lines. The criminals use the homes of victims to store, prepare or distribute their drugs. The victims come from all sorts of backgrounds with one common feature; they are vulnerable.

Just like the cuckoos, the drug dealers take over the homes of others. They try to keep their actions secret and mark out their territory, often using violence as a means of control and targeting young people as their mules. Enslaving homes in our communities enables them to do so with little fear of retribution. Take Anne, a grandmother from Yorkshire. A victim of domestic violence, Anne became addicted to drugs and alcohol. After a number of months homeless, she was given local authority housing, but she was quickly targeted by a drug gang. They took over her home and subjected her to violence. They used it as a central hub for their distribution of drugs.

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Anne's story is far too common. With more than a thousand county line drug networks known to police, officers say there's been a sharp rise in the number of people who are seeing their homes taken over by the gangs. They include the elderly, disabled and those with mental health issues. They are those to whom society must afford some of the greatest protection.

Urgent action is needed to stem the rise of this crime. Charging those responsible with drug offences, the preferred Crown Prosecution Service solution, does not cut it. Very simply, it fails to recognise the harm that victims suffer. According to a new report by the Centre for Social Justice and the anti-slavery charity Justice and Care, CPS lawyers believe that the crime falls outside the definition of slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour in Section One of the Act.

Section two of the Act, which looks at the movement of people for exploitation – that is human trafficking – is certainly not the answer. By its very nature cuckooing is not about the movement of victims. It is about the taking over of their home. The victims are not moved, they stay put, their space is taken over.

Justice and Care knows the issue far too well. Its front-line workers, who are embedded with police forces around the country, are often called in to support victims. They have been doing so with Anne, helping her to rebuild her life and confidence. She is now safe, but the scars run deep. The journey to recover from what has happened to her is a long one.

That is why I am calling on the Home Secretary and the Government to make a simple change to the Modern Slavery Act, to be debated next week in the House of Lords. To make it an offence to occupy or exercise substantial control over another person's home in connection with criminal activity without their consent. It is an easy, cost-free solution which will give our police and courts the power to keep victims, communities, and our children safer from drug barons and slavers. It is time to kick these evil cuckoos out of the nest.

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