A man who is the first person to be convicted of so-called ‘sex for hire’ offenses in England and Wales has been jailed for a year.
Christopher Cox, a 53-year-old landlord, posted ads looking for women to wear bikinis around the house and provide sex in exchange for free rent.
Guildford Crown Court heard how Cox ‘targeted vulnerable young women’ who needed a roof over their heads – including a homeless, ‘sick and desperate’ woman.
Cox previously pleaded guilty to one count of controlling prostitution for profit and two counts of inducing prostitution for profit.
Judge Robert Fraser told Cox his actions were a ‘cynical attempt to profit by dangling a carrot to those who had no choice’ and that he was involved in ‘the very deliberate targeting of homeless women vulnerable”.
“Sex for hire” refers to free accommodation given in exchange for sex.
Cox posted ads on the classifieds website Craigslist looking for young or homeless women to stay with him at his home in Cranleigh, Surrey.
Her ad was directed to “a girl in need” and asked “if you are a young girl aged 16+ who is stuck at home and wants to get away or maybe you are homeless looking of a safe route, I have a room available in my house for a young girl”.
In exchange for housing, the young woman had to “cook, clean, do the laundry and maybe more”.
He asked them to send him pictures of themselves and said they would have to wear bikinis and provide sex in exchange for a room.
Cox was looking for women to wear bikinis around the house, participate in bondage, BDSM, spanking, and sleep in his bed.
The charges, between May 2018 and November 2018, relate to three separate women.
Upon meeting the women who responded to his ads, Cox soon realized that they had piqued the interest of two undercover reporters who launched an undercover operation.
Prosecutor Ross Talbott recounted how reporters were working on a program run by presenter Jeremy Kyle, who confronted Cox and told him “what he was doing targeting vulnerable young women for sexual favors was morally wrong and criminal”.
In a message to his friends, Cox later described his behavior as his “dirty secret”.
He also told his friends, “I got myself in a bit of hot water because of my tenants for rent.”
But even after being confronted by television cameras, Cox continued to send out his advertisements.
The judge told Cox: “It is remarkable and speaks volumes about your determination to continue that you have published other advertisements. This may say something about the strength of your sexual intent.
While defense attorney Rupert Hallowes said that when Cox set up his explicit tenancy scheme and had sex with one of his tenants, he “was satisfied that this arrangement being consensual was legal and that a friends-with-benefits deal was not illegal”.
Mr Hallowes added: ‘This defendant finally realized there was distorted thinking and the balance of power would never be consensual.’
He said: “The defendant was alone. He wanted company and frankly sexual advantages.
Cox was sentenced to six months on each of two charges of incitement to prostitution for profit, as well as a year in prison for controlling prostitution for profit.
In a previous article for The Independent‘s Voices section, Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, a housing charity, said: ‘When power meets despair and sex is also in the mix, there will be men who take advantage of sinister way unless steps are taken to keep the women safe. If that sounds 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 accommodation, making so-called ‘sex for hire’ terribly common.
“This disgusting crime is one of the worst manifestations of our housing emergency. It has created the perfect conditions for this blatant abuse of power.
Additional Press Association reporting