The Minister for Women, Jo Swinson, has urged the police to investigate anyone suspected of taking advantage of students or forcing vulnerable women into prostitution.
In a written response to a question by the Labour MP and former minister Helen
Goodman, Swinson said she was aware of the SponsorAScholar.co.uk website, which has now been taken down following an undercover investigation by The Independent.
The man responsible for the site, which offered students up to
£ 15,000 a year in exchange for intimate encounters with wealthy businessmen or sponsors , was revealed this week to be Mark Lancaster, an IT consultant.
There is mounting concern that high student fees
could be forcing people into sex work to cover their debt.
Swinson defended the Government's high fees policy:
No eligible student has to pay for their tuition up-front. Loans are available to meet the full cost
of tuition charges at publicly funded institutions.
Update: We don't want people having fun or earning money now, do we?
Police investigating a website offering payment of tuition fees for female students in return for sex have arrested a man on suspicion of inciting prostitution.
After an undercover expose by the Independent into a man who claimed to be an
assessor for SponsorAScholar.co.uk, Mark Lancaster was detained by police from the Metropolitan Police's Trafficking and Prostitution Unit.
The computer consultant was questioned and released on police bail. He will return to Charing Cross
police station in central London in February.
SponsorAScholar.co.uk offered female students aged 17 to 24 up to £ 15,000 a year in return for what it described as discreet adventures with businessmen in
private flats or hotel rooms.
The Independent story followed mounting concern that rising student fees could be forcing young people into sex work to cover their debt with experts claiming the site was the tip of the iceberg .
Mark Lancaster, who was arrested by Scotland Yard officers following an investigation by The Independent into the SponsorAScholar website, was told that
his case will be heard by a Crown Court.
He is accused of two offences under the Sexual Offences Act allegedly committed between 1 September and 30 September last year. One charge is an allegation of voyeurism and the second accuses him of
trafficking a woman within the United Kingdom for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Computer consultant Mark Lancaster has been jailed for 16 months for voyeurism and trafficking after using sex for fees website to dupe student into having sex with him
The prosecutors took the opportunity to inflate trafficking figures by adding a ludicrous trafficking charge on the grounds that the victim was duped into travelling to meet Lancaster, hence was 'trafficked'.
If politicians and the public can put aside long-held prejudices, then they may be able to solve some of the tough economic questions Britain has to answer by unleashing the financial power of
It is an element of Edinburgh life that is hidden in plain sight. For years the city's sex industry has operated alongside businesses and homes in some of the wealthiest neighbourhoods without many being aware of its existence.
licensed saunas, a discreet front for prostitution, are widely regarded as a pragmatic way of managing the sex industry. They sit side-by-side with shops and houses with little to suggest to passers-by that they are anything other than a convenient venue
to enjoy a relaxing back massage.
Edinburgh's system is among the most liberal in the UK. Supporters of the system say it has kept many women off the streets and provided a safe environment for those engaged in sex work.
But this week 13 of
the city's 15 saunas face a turning point. Their licences, which fall into the public entertainment category, are up for renewal on Wednesday and two objections have been lodged.
One long-time critic, Michael Anthony, has written to members of
Edinburgh City Council's licensing sub-committee, pointing out that it is a criminal offence to operate a brothel.
It is well established that Edinburgh saunas are brothels, he wrote. It is a criminal offence to
operate a brothel. Anyone assisting committing of crime also commits an offence. Accordingly, councillors cannot grant entertainment licenses, or any other permission to operate a brothel.
For now, the future of Edinburgh's unique
method of handling prostitution hangs in the balance. The closure of all or some of the saunas would change the face of the sex industry. Councillor Joanna Mowat, a former committee member, said:
We don't look too
closely at what goes on in properties that are licensed for massage. But we may be pushed to change if Mr Anthony has evidence.
Both of these bills amount to hate legislation against prostitution, an
effort to drive the industry underground in a flurry of fear and disgust brought on by the fact that the acts involve sex. They may be couched in terms of saving the poor and unlucky victims of trafficking, and may have lofty goals of gender equality,
but they will do nought but bring further harm to prostitutes in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
How is this different from the last few times that prostitution has been challenged? This time the anti-sex campaigners are riding a
rising right-wing tide across the Western world that has led to discussions outlawing prostitution in France and Ireland. Denmark has also seen prostitution under attack, although the Danes in general were sceptical of criminalising prostitution. The
current consultations also seem to be marginally better researched, now that more time has passed since Sweden passed their law.
In both of these consultations, numbers matter. CAAN encourages you, as an individual, to put forward
your opinion on these new consultations. You may just have the one argument that turns the tide against the sex-negative campaigners. Your voice counts!
The Northern Ireland Consultation closes 5pm on Thursday 18th October 2012.
You can read the consultation in full with all directions of where to send it
The Scotland Consultation
closes 14 December 2012. You can read the consultation in full with all directions of where to send it
PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO ANY PARTIES YOU FEEL WOULD BE INTERESTED.