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”.
Cox posted adverts on Craigslist looking for women to stay with him at his home in Cranleigh, Surrey.
His advert, aimed at “a girl in need”, said: “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, said they should wear bikinis and provide sexual services in exchange for a room.
Cox asked women to wear bikinis around the house and wanted them to take part in 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, 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 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.
Defence lawyer Rupert Hallowes said that when Cox set up his explicit renting scheme and had sex with one of his tenants, he “was of the belief that this arrangement being consensual was lawful and that a friends with benefits arrangement was not illegal”.
Mr Hallowes added: “This defendant has finally come to the realisation that there was distorted thinking and the balance of power was never going to be consensual.”
He said: “The defendant was lonely. He wanted company and frankly sexual benefits.”
Cox has now fallen on “pretty straitened” times, is sofa-surfing, reliant on his elderly parents and suffers from a series of medical problems, according to Mr Hallowes.
After the hearing, investigating officer Detective Sergeant Megan Lightburn of Surrey Police said Cox had “brazenly” used classified adverts to seek sexual services.
She said: “To take advantage of vulnerable women who are simply looking for an affordable way to put a roof over their heads is utterly despicable.
“Even after being caught out and challenged by undercover researchers working on an television programme pretending to be interested in his ad, he still continued to advertise the room.
“The fact that he pleaded guilty to all three charges proves how compelling the evidence against him was.
“I can only hope that the sentence he has received today will bring some form of closure for the victim who did end up moving with him and reassure her that he has been brought to justice for his heinous actions.”