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Man charged over so-called ‘sex for rent’ allegations in first case of its kind

The Independent logo The Independent 25/01/2021 Maya Oppenheim
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A man has been charged over so-called "sex for rent" allegations in what is thought to be the case of its type in England and Wales.

Christopher Cox, of Cranleigh in Surrey, faces two counts of inciting prostitution for gain and one count of controlling prostitution for gain.

The 52-year-old is scheduled appear at North East Surrey Magistrates' Court on 24 February.

"Sex for rent” refers to rent-free housing being given in exchange for sex.

Claire Prodger, a senior crown prosecutor, said: “Following an investigation into so-called 'sex-for-rent' allegations, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has authorised Surrey Police to charge Christopher Cox with two counts of inciting prostitution for gain and one count of controlling prostitution for gain.

”The charges arose out of an investigation by ITV researchers, passed to police in 2019, which resulted in further criminal enquiries.

“This is a complex case and we have reached the decision following a careful review of all the evidence gathered during this period.

”Criminal proceedings against this defendant are now active and he has a right to a fair trial.”

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Ms Prodger said it was “extremely important” there be no reporting, commentary or distribution of information online which “could in any way prejudice these proceedings”.

Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, told The Independent: “We welcome the police and prosecution service taking action to look into ‘sex for rent’ and being willing to investigate thoroughly and charge.

“We worry that this form of exploitation has gone under the radar for some time, as if it’s no one else’s business, when in fact it is potentially extremely harmful in a context of current housing costs and the poverty that is all around us.”

Peter Kyle, shadow ninister for victims and youth justice, said offering housing for sex was a “heinous practice” which needed to be “stamped out”. 

The Labour MP added: "This government has failed to protect victims despite years of hard work by campaigners.

“The government must work with the police and criminal justice system to increase enforcement against this form of sexual exploitation.”

In an article for The Independent’s Voices section last week, Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “When power meets desperation, and gender is in the mix too, there will be men who will take advantage in sinister ways unless steps are taken to keep women safe. If that seems harsh, look at the facts.

“According to our research, approximately 30,000 women since March 2020 have been sexually harassed by landlords, demanding sex in exchange for a place to live – making so-called 'sex for rent' terrifyingly common.

“This disgusting crime is one of the worst manifestations of our housing emergency. It has created the perfect conditions for this gross abuse of power.”

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