The Met Police has written to local newspaper editors in London warning them they could be breaking the law by carrying adverts linked to sex trafficking.
The Croydon Guardian has campaigned against newspapers carrying such personal services adverts and parent company Newsquest took the decision in 2008 to ban its titles from carrying them. But many other local newspapers in the capital continue to run them.
In a letter to editors detective chief superintendent Richard Martin, of the Met Police human exploitation and organised crime unit, warned of the link between newspaper adverts and sex trafficking.
He said: ‘â€¦advertising in newspapers can play a key role in facilitating the exploitation of trafficked victims.’
And he added: ‘The adverts in question often purport to be massage parlours, saunas or escort agencies, but are in reality a front for criminal networks to advertise trafficked victims for sexual services. Consequently it is vital that we tackle this area as part of our overarching strategy to reduce trafficking in London.”
He urged editors to support action on this issue by ‘by ensuring that your publications do not allow advertising space to be utilised to promote these practices”.
He said that ads offering ‘multi-national or young women; or which are sexually suggestive in tone’are often linked to ‘the provision of sexual services and/or the presence of trafficked women”.
‘It is these types of adverts I am seeking your support in preventing. I would ask that you put in place a system to satisfy yourselves that those seeking to place advertisements are genuine concerns or businesses and not a cover for the types of criminal activity highlighted above.”
The officer warned editors that ‘criminal liability can arise in certain circumstances where evidence clearly shows that the advertising in question supports or promotes offences associated to trafficking, exploitation or proceeds of crime”.