Newspaper editors across London have been sent letters by police warning them they could be prosecuted unless they stop running sex adverts involving women who could have been trafficked.
A letter was sent to more than 170 editors yesterday afternoon by the Metropolitan Police Service telling them they could be held criminally liable if adverts in their titles turn out to be linked to human trafficking, exploitation or proceeds of crime.
The letter from Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin, head of the Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Unit, asks editors to put a system in place to ensure they do not accept adverts which are a front for such criminal activity.
It comes after claims in the Croydon Guardian last month that editors could be prosecuted if the continue to run adverts for brothels, after an eight-month investigation into sex trafficking by reporter Kirsty Whalley.
The letter from DCS Martin says advertising in newspapers could play a key role in allowing the exploitation of trafficked victims.
He writes: “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.
“I am therefore seeking your support to help us address this issue by ensuring that your publications do not allow advertising space to be utilised to promote these practices.
“Advertisements that offer multi-national or young women or which are sexually suggestive in tone are often the type found to be 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.
“As you will appreciate, 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.”
Newsquest is the only major newspaper publisher in the capital to ban sex ads from its newspapers.