Plymouth man has admitted to importing child-like ‘sex-dolls’ after major investigation
July 31, 2017
A Plymouth man is set to be sentenced for possessing indecent images of children and for importing a child-like sex doll, which a child charity has called to be banned.
Brian Hopkins, of Seymour Road, Mannamead first appeared at Plymouth Magistrates Court on July 6 where he faced a total of eight charges.
Court papers noted how Hopkins, aged 40, was accused of one count of making two indecent moving images of a child at Category A, a further count of making 145 Category B still indecent images of a child, a third count of making 196 Category C indecent still images of a child and another count of making indecent 245 Category A still images of a child.
Category A images are considered to be the ‘most severe’ images.
Hopkins also faced additional count of possessing an extreme pornographic images portraying a person performing intercourse with an Alsatian dog, another similar count of an image involving a large dog, a further count of possessing an extreme pornographic image which portrayed an act which would be likely to result in serious injury to a person’s intimate anatomy.
All the counts related to November 15, 2016.
The final charge put to Hopkins was that he intended to evade a prohibition under Customs legislation regarding the importation of a “child sex doll, which was an indecent or obscene article”.
The NCA and NSPCC have called for legislation to see the sex dolls made illegal
The case was sent to Plymouth Crown Court on July 13 when Hopkins pleaded guilty to all counts.
His case was adjourned by the court for sentencing on August 4.
It is understood the case was investigated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) following an initial report by Border Force officers.
Recent media reports has highlighted a surge in seizures of the child-like sex dolls by border officers which has led investigators to identify dozens of individuals who appear to have a sexual interest in children.
A sex doll which was owned by a man who has recently appeared at Canterbury Crown Court
The NCA claim the lifelike silicone sex aids, which weigh around 55lbs and can cost thousands of pounds, are being imported into the UK after being sold by traders on sites including Amazon and eBay.
The dolls, often manufactured in China and Hong Kong, are a ‘relatively new phenomenon’ in the UK and should be criminalised, said Hazel Stewart, the operations manager at the NCA’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP).
Information relating to a recent similar case at Canterbury Crown Court revealed that Border Force officers have seized 123 dolls in little more than a year since March 2016 and so far seven people – including Hopkins – have been charged with importing them.
Of the seven men charged with importing the dolls so far, six also faced allegations relating to possession of indecent images of children.
A number of investigations into the importation of the dolls have also uncovered men who possess indecent images of children
Dan Scully, deputy director for intelligence operations at the Border Force, said: “Border Force intelligence and detection officers started to notice an increase in prevalence of seizing these child-like dolls.
“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 NCA, CEOP and Border Force launched a joint investigation in March last year and asked a paediatrician to examine some of the models seized to confirm their belief that the dolls were child-like in appearance and anatomy.
Border Force officers have powers to seize items they believe are indecent or obscene under customs legislation, with those who ordered them prosecuted under a specific charge of importing an indecent or obscene article.
While NCA agents do not believe any similar models are being manufactured in the UK, Ms Stewart said there were concerns over a gap in legislation because it is not illegal to own a child sex doll.
As a result prosecutors have had to take an importation legislation, in the same way as guns and drugs.
Border Force officers had admitted it was not it was possible to search every box going through customs and only their expertise could result in them catching boxes which are labelled as something else.
Ms Stewart admitted investigators were ‘playing catch-up’ and many of the investigations into the seizures, which were mostly of a single doll bought by one individual, were at a very early stage.
It is understood some cases which were initially marked ‘no further action’ at the start of the investigation will be reviewed and further prosecutions are expected.
Each doll is typically packed in a brown cardboard box. It is unclothed and the head is detached from the body with the feet and hands packaged to avoid damage.
It sometimes arrives with a “pretty pink blanket”.
It is not a criminal offence to possess a child doll of this kind; the only offence which people can be charged with is importation of an obscene or indecent article.
There is no legislation to stop people manufacturing them.
Ms Stewart said the only way to prevent the use and sale of the dolls was to target the manufacturers, the importers and the possessors.
She added that any new legislation which could tackle the growing problem would have to be “future-proofed in case there is the introduction of the sexbots, the sex robots.”
Ms 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 said: “They are the weight of a seven-year-old child, they are not something that is the traditional blow-up doll.
“[They are] very, very different – very, very more accurate anatomically.”
The dolls are made all the more lifelike with glass eyes, false eyelashes and crooked fingers and toes. They often come packaged with accessories including a choice of wigs, a USB device to warm the spongy silicone skin, and a cleaning device.
Ms Stewart noted how buyers often buy clothes to dress the dolls up, including a lacy thong, negligee and pink lacy crotchless body stocking.
Jon Brown, NSPCC Head of Development, said: “There is no evidence to support the idea that the use of so-called child sex dolls helps potential abusers from committing contact offences against real children.
“And in fact 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.
“The NSPCC is calling on Government to take action to criminalise the manufacturing, distribution and possession of these grotesque dolls, in the same way it does indecent images of children.
“And until this loophole is closed, online retailers who have these items available to purchase should immediately remove them from sale.”