Massage parlours: In the UK, prostitution itself is legal but activities such as pimping and owning or managing a brothel are not. However, the laws are not always stringently enforced. Many brothels in cities such as Manchester and London function in the course of lawful businesses which are certified as ‘Massage Parlours’ and run under that name.
Police forces frequently turn a blind eye to such establishments. Massage parlours are now and then advertised in newspapers, but a newspaper which carries advertising for a brothel under the appearance of a massage parlour may be liable to prosecution for money laundering offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
The Newspaper Society’s guiding principle suggests that their members (the majority of local newspapers) decline to carry advertisements for sexual services. The advice also warns publishers that massage parlours can mask unlawful offers of sexual services and it suggests checking credentials to make certain the advertised service is lawful. Newspaper companies often adopt a policy of refusing all advertisements for massage parlours.
It is suggested that Manchester has around 70 ‘massage parlours’ which might be fronts for prostitution and that the police seem to be ignoring these establishments, choosing to focus resources instead on lowering street prostitution. It has been reported in the Manchester Evening News that a self-confessed pimp walked free from court after a judge was told police had deliberately turned a blind eye to organised prostitution in massage parlours in and around Manchester.
At one point, the Manchester Evening News removed all advertisements for massage parlours from its personal columns. The decision was taken following a meeting between ministers and newspaper and advertising industry representatives.
Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, in the House of Commons stated that local newspapers carrying massage parlour adverts were promoting slavery by running sex adverts for foreign women.
However, the Manchester Evening News subsequently reinstated massage parlour ads. Also, many local newspapers that originally blocked such ads started accepting them again after realising ads for massage parlours were a very profitable source of income.