A former churchwarden faces jail in what is thought to be one of the first prosecutions concerning importing a child sex doll in the UK.
Ex-primary school governor David Turner, 72, pleaded guilty on Monday to importing the child sex doll after the application to dismiss the charge by arguing that the doll was not obscene was turned down.
Turner, from Ramsgate, was freed on bail to be sentenced on September 8 for the importation charge and for pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to possessing or making more than 34,000 indecent images of children aged around three to 16.
The trial at Canterbury Crown Court was described as setting an “important” precedent in how suspects can be prosecuted.
It comes amid a surge in seizures of child-like sex dolls by border officers which has led investigators to identify dozens of previously unknown suspected paedophiles.
The lifelike silicone sex aids, which weigh around 55lb and can cost thousands of pounds, are being imported into the UK after being sold by traders on sites including Amazon and eBay, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The dolls, often manufactured in China and Hong Kong, are a “relatively new phenomenon” in the UK and should be criminalised, the operations manager at the NCA’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP), Hazel Stewart, said.
Border Force officers have seized 123 dolls in little more than a year since March 2016 and so far seven people have been charged with importing them, including one man who was jailed last month.
Of the seven men charged with importing the dolls so far, six also faced allegations linked to child abuse images.
Dan Scully, deputy director for intelligence operations at the Border Force, said this showed those who ordered the models often strayed into sex crimes.
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He said: ”What’s critical, I think, for this investigation, these items were going to individuals, in many cases, who were committing other offences in relation to harm of children.
“They were also, critically, people who were otherwise unknown to UK law enforcement in having an interest in sexual activity with children.
“By identifying these importations, working with partners, what we’ve identified is a whole set of people with interests in sexual activity with children who were completely unknown.”
The NSPCC called on the Government to criminalise the manufacturing, distribution and possession of child sex dolls, and for online retailers to remove them immediately.
Jon Brown, head of development at the charity, said: “There is no evidence to support the idea that the use of so-called child sex dolls helps stop potential abusers from committing contact offences against real children.”
The charity also called on the Government to criminalise the manufacture, distribution and possession of the “grotesque” dolls.
Mr Brown added: “There is a risk that those using these child sex dolls or realistic props could become desensitised and their behaviour becomes normalised to them, so that they go on to harm children themselves, as is often the case with those who view indecent images.”
NCA’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP), Hazel Stewart said the dolls were unlike those people might associate with stag dos and were the precursor to more sophisticated child sex robots, which she warned were “just around the corner”.
She added: ”They are the weight of a seven-year-old child, they are not something that is the traditional blow-up doll,” she said.
“(They are) very, very different – very, very more accurate anatomically.”
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “The importation of child sex dolls into the UK is an extremely disturbing new phenomenon and one that needs to be tackled with robust legislation and enforcement.
“We welcome the action by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Border Force to ban these obscene and realistic sex dolls based on young children.”
Top pic: PA/SWNS