Ipswich daily newspapers the Evening Star and East Anglian Daily Times have stopped publishing sex ads after a campaign spearheaded by Neil Boast, a former police sergeant who worked on the Suffolk Strangler case.
Before leaving the force six months ago Boast led Suffolk Constabulary’s human trafficking and sexual exploitation unit – the team set up following the conviction serial killer Steve Wright, who was found guilty of murdering five prostitutes in Ipswich in 2008.
Boast has spent years lobbying to get sex ads banned from local newspapers in Ipswich and in February 2010 submitted a report to senior officers outlining his concerns.
Six months later his deputy chief constable wrote to Archant asking it to withdraw the ads, but it has taken another year for the papers to remove the adverts for “adult services”.
Boast campaigned up until the day of his retirement and in his leaving speech spoke of his regret that they were still being published.
After leaving the force he stepped up the campaign, setting up a Facebook page and working with a team including church members and social workers.
Boast estimates that the ads bring in around £40k a year in income for the Ipswich papers. He also told Press Gazette there was resistance from inside the police force to the ads being banned, with some officers arguing that they were a vital source of intelligence gathering.
But when he raided the brothels that were being advertised in the newspapers he said ‘the women were always trafficked”, most often from countires like China and Malaysia.
They were smuggled into the country with the promise of jobs in the catering or cleaning industries, but were then effectively held hostage in ‘chicken house’brothels, often with links to Chinese Triads, Boast said.
And among his biggest concerns was that the ads legitimised the sex trade: ‘The punters would say to us: ‘Look, it’s in the paper, how can it be wrong?'”
He added: ‘I’m not a moral crusader but I am a dad – and it just broke my heart every time I saw those girls.”
Suffolk Constabulary’s head of public protection, detective superintendant Alan Caton, wrote to Nigel Pickover, editor of The Evening Star and Terry Hunt, editor of the East Anglian Daily Times this week thanking them for the decision.
‘I am very grateful to you and your colleagues who have listened to our position and taken the bold step of removing these adverts from your newspapers,’he said.
‘I am of course aware that in removing these adverts you will have lost a significant revenue stream and understand that this will have been a challenging decision.”
The Evening Star’s Somebody’s Daughter campaign, launched at the time of Steve Wright’s killing spree in Ipswich, raised more than £50,000 and continues to help fund a refuge for women affected by drug addiction.
A spokesperson for Archant said this was a local decision and that ‘as a company, we have adopted the Newspaper Society guidelines for the publishing industry on adult advertising.
‘These guidelines were developed following discussions with various government departments as well as the Advertising Standards Authority, the Committee of Advertising Practice, and the Advertising Association.”