Fresh guidance for prosecutors to help clamp down on child sex dolls trade

Fresh guidance for prosecutors to help clamp down on child sex dolls trade
Fresh guidance for prosecutors to help clamp down on child sex dolls trade
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Prosecutors have been equipped with fresh guidance about how to tackle the trade in sex dolls resembling children, with more than a dozen a month being seized at the border.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said on Thursday the measures would help clamp down on the issue.

Charities and investigators have called for a crackdown on the objects, which are manufactured to allow adults to engage in sex acts with them.

Customs officials have reported seizing 230 items suspected to be child sex dolls in the past 18 months, the CPS said.

While there is no specific offence of possessing the dolls, prosecutors are being told to go after suspects under existing laws, such as one prohibiting the importation of obscene articles.

This was how Brian Leach, a 62-year-old from Maidstone, Kent, ended up being handed a 28-week jail sentence last month.

He was arrested after ordering a 100cm-tall doll from China, which was worth £500, before admitting the importation offence as well as making indecent images of a child.

Despite claiming the doll was to be a companion, police said the package included accessories "which clearly indicated it to be an object for sexual gratification".

The children's charity, 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 organisation welcomed the CPS's measures which it said 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 spokesman 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 importation of obscene articles charge carries a maximum of seven years' imprisonment, but the CPS is also recommending using obscenity and postal laws.

Investigations have also started with a suspect being caught with a doll, before being charged with separate offences.

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

But the investigation into him started when the National Crime Agency (NCA) discovered he was importing a suspected child sex doll, a CPS spokesman said.

NCA 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.

Greg McGill, a CPS director, said: "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."