Hundreds of child sex dolls seized at UK borders, sparking legal crackdown

'There is no ambiguity that they are designed to depict children and their purpose is to stimulate sex'

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 28 March 2019 19:07
Hundreds of child sex dolls seized at UK borders

Hundreds of child sex dolls have been seized at Britain's borders before they can be used by paedophiles, prosecutors have revealed as they launch a crackdown.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has issued new legal guidance to help bring charges against importers and jail them for up to seven years.

A total of 230 suspected child sex dolls have been seized by the Border Force and referred to police since September 2016.

Normally purchased online, they are designed to be as anatomically close to a child in size, features and weight as possible.

While some manufacturers have claimed the dolls help prevent paedophiles committing sexual offences against children, charities have said there is no proof for the assertion and many buyers have previous convictions.

“Children's charities and the National Crime Agency have called for tough criminal enforcement against the obscene objects, which are manufactured in a way that enables sex acts to be performed on them,” a spokesperson for the CPS said. "While no law makes child sex dolls specifically illegal, the new guidance aims to help prosecutors utilise existing laws by classifying child sex dolls as “obscene”.

This will allow importers be charged under customs laws forbidding “indecent or obscene articles”, with a maximum jail sentence of seven years.

Sellers and distributors will be punished with up to five years imprisonment under the Obscene Publications Act and sending the dolls by post will be held as a violation of the Postal Services Act 2000 and punishable by up to a year in prison.

Greg McGill, the CPS director of legal services, said: “There is a clear public interest in deterring those who sustain the market for obscene child sex dolls and the CPS would like to make clear that their sale or importation is a serious criminal offence.

“We will not hesitate to apply the law against anybody caught encouraging or indulging in this disturbing behaviour – and this guidance will aid our prosecutors to do just that.”

The NSPCC has previously called on ministers to close a “legal loophole” by making it an offence to create, distribute or possess the dolls.

But the children's charity welcomed the new measures, which it hoped would “clamp down” on distributors and act as a deterrent to potential buyers.

“There is no ambiguity that they are designed to depict children and their purpose is to stimulate sex,” a spokesperson added. “We have serious worries that adults who use sex dolls could become desensitised and their behaviour become normal to them so that they go on to harm children.”

The measures were revealed a day after a 61-year-old man was jailed following an investigation started because he imported a child sex doll.

Donald Styles, 61, from Newton Abbot in Devon, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for possession and making indecent photographs on Wednesday.

'Horrifying' number of men view child sex abuse images online, police say

Last month, a 62-year-old man from Kent was jailed for 28 weeks for ordering a 100cm tall doll from China, which was worth £500.

Brian Leach claimed the doll was to be a companion, but police said the package included accessories “which clearly indicated it to be an object for sexual gratification”.

Leach admitted an importation offence and making indecent images of a child.

National Crime Agency specialist operations manager Hazel Stewart said: “There is no place in society for these dolls. Importing them is a crucial flag to potential offending against children.”

She added that 20 of 26 recent offenders convicted over child sex dolls were also found with indecent images of children.

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