Hollyoaks will in 2020 explore the issue of child criminal exploitation through county lines with school-age children and teen characters – working closely with charity The Children’s Society.

The decision for Hollyoaks to tackle this subject comes off the back of the National Crime Agency revealing county lines exploitation is present across all police areas in England and Wales.  It estimates that the number of deal lines has more than doubled to around 2,000 in the last year. 

Hollyoaks’ ambition is to get beyond the headlines, beyond the crime statistics and police reports, and to look at the impact on real families and real children.

‘County lines’ is a term used when drug gangs from big cities expand their operations to smaller towns, exploiting children and vulnerable people.

Over the course of a year Hollyoaks characters, Juliet (Niamh Blackshaw), Charlie (Charlie Behan), Sid (Billy Price) and Ella (Erin Palmer) will be groomed to carry out criminal activity.

Hollyoaks matriarchs Nancy (Jessica Fox), Leela (Kirsty Leigh Porter), Marnie (Lysette Anthony) and Mandy (Sarah Jayne Dunn) will fight to protect their children as they become embroiled in this dangerous world.

The long-running story will commence in an ambitious New Year hour long ‘flash-forward’ episode (to be aired on Friday 27th December E4, Monday 30th December C4).

Episode scenes will offer glimpses of New Year’s Eve 2020, depicting how much life has changed in a year for the young teens of Hollyoaks village and their families.  As the clock chimes towards midnight, flashes to scenes 12 months on, will include a knife being dropped into an evidence bag.

The Children’s Society are a national charity that works with some of the country's most vulnerable children and young people, including those at risk of or affected by child criminal exploitation. Hollyoaks’ writing and research teams have consulted The Children’s Society throughout the creative process and will continue to consult the charity’s experts throughout the scripting and production process.