A senior Metropolitan Police officer has claimed that editors could be arrested for carrying sex industry adverts in their newspapers, according to a report today.
The Croydon Guardian splashed this morning with a front page – headed ‘Dirty Money’– which reported vice-officer Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland saying the police were willing to charge editors and publishers with aiding and abetting sex trafficking and money laundering.
The south London weekly said the move came as part of the Met’s campaign against sex trafficking.
Press Gazette understands that arresting editors, while a possibility, would be very much a last resort and the Met wanted to work with newspapers and industry body, the Newspaper Society, to stamp out the advertisements.
Matthew Knowles, assistant editor of the Croydon Guardian, told Press Gazette: “Chief reporter Kirsty Whalley has spent the best part of eight months doggedly chasing this story.
“She has cultivated great contacts within the vice unit and the anti-trafficking charities allowing her to put together an exclusive about a change which will have a big impact on the trafficking of women in UK. It will clearly also have major implications for newspaper groups.”
The Croydon Guardian’s story highlighted how the Met’s operation follows sustained lobbying by charity Croydon Community Against Trafficking (CCAT), which protests about trafficked women working in illegal massage parlours.
Knowles added: “Kirsty was contacted by a woman who had been beaten, raped and tortured after getting trafficked across to the UK on the false promise of a job.
“She had read earlier stories Kirsty had written about sex trafficking in Croydon and wanted contact details of someone who could help. Kirsty befriended the woman and over a series of emails gained her trust.
“DI Kevin Hyland of the Met’s vice unit took up the woman’s case and Kirsty followed this up with a series of meetings about his initiatives to tackle sex trafficking as he was thrilled about the position our newspaper group had taken over the sex ads issue.
“Kirsty worked closely with DI Hyland to prepare this week’s story which has involved long and sometimes fraught negotiations to get to this stage.
“The Croydon Guardian has been working closely with CCAT for a number of years and Kirsty has written extensively about the trade in the borough.”
The Croydon Guardian’s parent company, Newsquest, banned its papers from carrying advertising from sex establishments in 2008.
However the paper’s local rival, the Croydon Advertiser, has come under fire recently for continuing to carry sex ads in its pages.
In August, local pressure groups criticised the Advertiser for running a front-page story exposing an illegal brothel which happened to advertise in its own pages.
The Met told Press Gazette its Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command unit was responsible for tackling trafficking and prostitution in London.
“In many of these investigations the organised criminal networks have sought to advertise through local newspapers or advertising journals,” the Met said.
“It is important that everyone plays their part in trying to reduce the opportunity of criminal networks to continue their illegal activities and their exploitation of vulnerable people through advertising sexual services.
“The MPS has been working with the media for some time to tackle this and continues to do so.”