A Labour MP is demanding action against unscrupulous predator landlords who demand sex from tenants in lieu of rent.
The Daily Mail says it has contacted over 20 UK male landlords advertising on the US-owned listings website Craigslist - reporters were posing as a 21-year-old student who was repeatedly offered free accommodation in exchange for sexual acts.
The sexual overtures were made by an HMRC staff member and a former member of RAF Support Command amongst others. The Mail names some of the landlords it contacted.
Now Peter Kyle, shadow justice minister and Labour MP for Hove, says three things need to happen to eradicate the problem.
Firstly enforcement - he says placing suggestive ads is an offence, with hundreds now live on the Craigslist site. “Think about it: these perpetrators actually advertise their crime with phone number attached...why so hard to charge them?” asks Kyle.
Secondly he wants the creation of a specific offence in an amendment to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which may encourage more victims to come forward. Under the current legislation, victims must be legally defined as prostitutes, which is thought to be a deterrent to vulnerable individuals reluctant to come forward over fears it will adversely affect their futures.
Thirdly Kyle also wants Craigslist to be accountable for the advertising it allows. “They are profiting from the sexual exploitation of British youngsters. Instead of treating them as the pimps they are, they’re feted as Californian tech gurus. They ignore government, journalists, and my attempts to discuss” he continues.
Kyle says the problem is particularly acute in high rent areas such as Oxford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Brighton.
And the problem is exacerbated by the Coronavirus crisis.
“These predators see every crisis, both personal and public health, as an opportunity for exploitation. These people shouldn't be free to advertise their crimes, they should be before a jury answering for their crimes.”
Kyle first raised the issue three years ago. In 2018, the Crown Prosecution Service issued revised guidance on 'prostitution and exploitation of prostitution offences' to include sex-for-rent cases. The guidance suggests such arrangements could be committing the offence of causing prostitution for gain under Section 52 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
The Mail says it approached Craigslist corporately and its senior managers for comment, but did not receive any response.
You can see the Mail article here.