He also said it would be helpful if there were a legal precedent in Hong Kong.
Police have also mounted an operation online to keep an eye on internet forums and smartphone apps that seem to be a front for this area of the sex trade.
Lowcock said police were aware of some smartphone apps that allowed users to make friends with nearby users using location-based technology.
Superintendent Brian Lowcock of the Kowloon West regional crime unit said that once arrested, young women on the dates normally denied they provided sexual services.'They only say they met a friend on the internet, but were sexually attacked when they hung out,' he said.Police have requested legal advice from the Department of Justice on their powers to tackle those seeking potential dates in the cyberworld.Lowcock said it was important to clarify whether internet forums were public places under the law because it would help police pursue those seeking sex services and those offering them online.Police are scrambling to overcome a gap in the law that stops them prosecuting people who use internet forums and smartphone apps to solicit compensated dates.
Compensated dating is a form of prostitution in which the buyer and the seller first go on a date before having sex in return for money or gifts.There is no specific law against seeking these dates online, so police have tried to prosecute people by using Section 147 of the Crimes Ordinance, which states that it is a crime to solicit for an immoral purpose in a 'public place'.However, the law does not expressly state whether a 'public place' also covers internet forums and smartphone apps - the new front line of the sex trade, making arrest and convictions for compensated dating difficult.He said police were also conducting a legal study to see whether such platforms could be defined as public places so that the same offence could apply.Detective Chief Inspector Alan Chung, also of the Kowloon West regional crime unit, said that after police put up warnings on some popular forums, people started to use less obvious terms to look for dating partners. Besides the legal difficulties, another problem is that we need to prove that the person [we arrest] is really the one who posted the things online ...and solicits others for immoral behaviour,' he said. On one popular compensated-dating website, hkbigman.net, the police warnings were clear but so were the photos and prices of teenage girls offering services.