A report commissioned by a Labour MEP has called for a fresh clampdown on so-called sex adverts in local newspapers.
The Metropolitan Police sent a letter sent to 170 editors of London newspapers in 2010, arguing that there was a strong link between sex advertising and people trafficking.
However according to the report, only one newspaper in the capital, the Croydon Advertiser, has since banned the adverts.
The report, published yesterday, was commissioned by London MEP Mary Honeyball and written by researchers Halliki Voolma and Melisa Trujillo.
Among other recommendations, it calls on the Newspaper Society to take a stronger lead in drawing attention to the issue and ensuring newspapers respond.
It states: “The minimum standard is for editors to have comprehensive safeguards in place to ensure that the advertising they accept is not linked to sex trafficking.
“The most reliable way to ensure that local newspapers are not complicit in sex trafficking through their advertising policy, however, is to remove adverts for sexual services from their titles.
“The Newspaper Society must take a stronger stance on the issue and hold publishers to account to ensure the problem is not being ignored.
“While not a statutory authority, NS is powerfully placed to be able to fulfill this important role.”
However the report also acknowledges the commercial difficulties faced by newspapers and the risk that banning sex ads would affect their viability.
“While local newspapers clearly have a responsibility towards the communities they represent, they must also ensure they have a financially viable business,” it states.
“Newspaper publishers are under considerable, and increasing pressure to find revenue for their titles and without the income from sex adverts, some titles would fold.”
The report suggests that for some titles, a gradual phasing out of sex adverts would be more feasible than an outright ban.
Andrew Parkes, group editor of Newsquest South London, is among the journalists quoted in the report.
He said the company’s chief exectutive Paul Davidson had taken the decision to ban the ads in 2008 amid increasing concerns over the links between sex advertising and human trafficking.
However Andrew said that attempts to get these adverts into Newsquest’s titles have not stopped.
“Every week people try to get these adverts in. Even if they’re banned we still get them through different routes,” he said.