Landlord becomes first person to be convicted under 'sex-for-rent' law

Christopher Cox, 53, “targeted vulnerable young women” who needed a place to stay, Guildford Crown Court heard

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A landlord who is the first person to be convicted for “sex-for-rent” offences in England and Wales has been jailed for 12 months.

Christopher Cox, 53, “targeted vulnerable young women” who needed a place to stay, including one female who was homeless, “unwell and desperate”, Guildford Crown Court heard.

Cox previously pleaded guilty to a charge of controlling prostitution for gain and two counts of inciting prostitution for gain.

Judge Robert Fraser told Cox that his behaviour was a “cynical attempt to take advantage by dangling a carrot to those who had little choice” and that he was involved in “very deliberately targeting homeless women who were vulnerable”.

The judge said the offending has now become “colloquially known as sex-for-rent” and “this is the first such prosecution that has been brought”.

Guildford Crown Court
Guildford Crown Court

Cox posted adverts on classifieds website Craigslist looking for young or homeless women to stay with him at his then home in Cranleigh, Surrey.

His advert was aimed at “a girl in need” and asked “if you are a young girl 16-plus who is stuck at home and wants to get away or maybe you are homeless seeking a safe route out, I have a room available in my home for a young girl”.

In return for a place to stay, they were expected to “cook, clean, do laundry and possibly more”.

He asked them to send him photos of themselves and said they should wear bikinis and provide sexual services in exchange for a room.

Cox sought women to wear bikinis around the house, to take part in bondage, BDSM, spanking and to sleep in his bed.

The charges, between May 2018 and November 2018, relate to three separate women.

Upon meeting the women who replied to his adverts, Cox soon became aware that they had triggered the interest of two undercover reporters who launched a sting operation.

They were working on a programme fronted by presenter Jeremy Kyle, who confronted Cox and told him that “what he was doing in targeting young vulnerable women for sexual favours was morally wrong and criminal”, prosecutor Ross Talbott said.

In a message to his friends, Cox later described his behaviour as his “dirty secret”.

He also told his friends: “I got myself into a bit of hot water due to my sex-for-rent tenants.”

Even after he was confronted by TV cameras, Cox still continued sending out his adverts.

The judge told Cox: “It is remarkable and says something about your determination to continue that you posted further advertisements. It perhaps says something about the strength of your sexual intention.”

The allegations were passed to Surrey Police in 2019 following an investigation by ITV researchers and the force identified a woman who said she entered into a sex-for-rent arrangement with Cox.

Cox was sentenced to six months on each of the two charges of inciting prostitution for gain, which relate to two women between August 21 and September 6 2018 and November 4 and 7 2018.

He was also jailed for 12 months for controlling prostitution for gain between May 17 and June 27 2018.

The charge relates to a woman that Cox had sex with, who was described by the prosecution as “unwell and desperate”, doing cash-in-hand jobs and who had been involved in sex work. She was suicidal, needed a hip replacement and was in pain.

All sentences are to run concurrently.

Cox has a previous conviction for assaulting a boy when he was 18, the court heard.

Balding Cox, sporting a large grey beard and a black suit, made no response as he stood in the dock and was sentenced.