Amendment 104E

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - Report (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 12th January 2022.

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Photo of Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:00 pm, 12th January 2022

My Lords, this group of amendments seeks to introduce new offences to make it illegal to have sex-for-rental accommodation. Currently, sex for rent was affirmed as a sexual offence in 2017 by the Ministry of Justice. Under the current legislation, an individual can be prosecuted for such a crime only under Section 52 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003—causing or inciting prostitution for gain. Only one person has been charged in a sex-for-rent case, and only as recently as a year ago.

The law itself has made it extremely difficult for sex-for-rent victims to seek justice. According to the law, victims must be legally defined as prostitutes, which is a huge deterrent in their access to justice. Another reason why this scandal continues virtually unchecked is that landlords are able to advertise sex for rent in their properties very easily. Landlords still post on sites such as Craigslist, where they talk about free house shares, room shares or even bed shares, and even some of the postings are extremely explicit about the requirement of sex for rent.

Amendment 104E would create a new offence of requiring or accepting sexual relations as a condition of rental accommodation, with a maximum sentence if convicted of seven years. Amendment 104F would create a new offence of arranging or facilitating the requirement or acceptance of sexual relations as a condition of rental accommodation, with a maximum fine of £50,000. That would of course be for those who allow the advertisements on their websites or allow any other form of this type of advertising.

Amendment 114A would put a requirement on the Secretary of State to establish a review into the prevalence of, and the response of the criminal justice system to, the offence of administering a substance with intent under Section 61 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This is a separate point, and it is something that has had a lot of publicity recently. What is not known is how much of that has been drummed up by the press, if I can put it like that, and how much is real. Nevertheless, the concern that has been raised is certainly real, and this amendment would put an obligation on the Government to get to the bottom of the matter and see whether it is a real problem that nightclubs and other people need to take action to stamp out.

Amendment 114B would put a requirement on the Secretary of State to establish a review of the offence of exposure under Section 66 of the Sexual Offences Act. Again, this is a separate and wider issue, which has ramifications regarding violence against women and girls and the question of whether it is a step along that road. It is right that it should be viewed in its wider context. As a sitting magistrate I see these cases fairly often; they are highly variable and the perpetrators range completely across the social spectrum. Nevertheless, the impact on the women and girls who are subject to these exposures is real, and I am sure there is sufficient data to see whether people who expose themselves progress to much more serious offences.

However, it is fair to say that the main purpose of this group of amendments is to put in new offences of illegalising sex for rent. I beg to move.