david turner
David Turner pleaded guilty to importing a child sex dollNCA

A former churchwarden who imported a child sex doll has been jailed for 16 months, after a judge found he posed a risk to real children.

Ex-primary school governor David Turner admitted buying the lifelike silicon sex aid as a "companion" to join him and his wife.

He said he had purchased a number of dolls over the past eight years from China because he "loved children so much" and missed his own when they left home.

But he admitted that on a few occasions he had sexual intercourse with the dolls.

A search of his home in Ramsgate, Kent, also uncovered more than 34,000 illegal images of children, as well as photographs he had taken of pupils at the school he governed.

After being arrested in November 2016, Turner resigned as a school governor of St Ethelbert's Church Primary School in Ramsgate and from St Ethelbert's and Gertrude Church, where he was a warden.

The 72-year-old showed no emotion as he was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court on Friday (8 September). One of his four daughters watched on from the public gallery.

Judge Simon James told him: "I have been shown these items and the word 'doll' does not adequately convey what was imported by you. Frankly, without seeing one of these things, it is difficult to convey just how lifelike and repugnant they are.

"Your deliberate seeking out of items designed to recreate sex with children is, in my judgement, a significant aggravating feature. It demonstrates, despite your protestations to the contrary, that having become dissatisfied with watching two-dimensional imagery, you have moved on to seek to act our your grotesque fantasies."

He added: "The only reasonably conclusion to be reached is that your actively seeking out a way of physically and directly recreating the images found in your possession is indicative that you currently pose a direct risk to children."

Turner was sentenced to 16 months in prison and made subject of a sexual harm prevention order, restricting his use of computer equipment and banning him having unsupervised contact with under-16s.

Crackdown

His conviction comes amid a crackdown by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Border Force on the importing of child sex dolls from abroad, with more than 120 seized since March 2016.

The sex aids, often manufactured in Hong Kong or China, can fetch thousands of pounds and have been advertised for sale by traders on websites like eBay and Amazon.

Turner was arrested in November last year after a 3ft child doll labelled as a "mannequin" was intercepted at Stansted Airport en route from China. It came with a fishnet body-stocking.

A subsequent police search of Turner's home found two other child dolls, one of which Turner admitted to having intercourse with. This was the doll for which he was convicted.

Previous court cases involving the importing of child sex dolls have seen men plead guilty, but lawyers for Turner instead initially chose to challenge the charge.

They argued their client's sex doll was not obscene and thus not illegal.

Judge Simon James disagreed, saying that "any right-thinking person" would find the doll obscene, but added that it was for a jury to make such a determination.

Turner, who had already admitted possession of child abuse images, instead decided to enter a plea of guilty to the offence rather than go to trial. He was convicted in July.

Kevin Toomey, mitigating, said his client, a grandfather, had suppressed his attraction to children until around 15 years ago, when he became the carer for his now-deceased wife – who suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's.

He told officers in police interview he bought the dolls "because I love children so much and when my own children left home we missed them a lot".

He bought clothes for them and dressed them up, the court heard.

Analysis of Turner's computers showed he viewed websites selling items advertised as "flat chest love doll" and "mini silicone sex doll 65cms little breasts".

He was also in possession of 138 Category A (the most serious) images of child abuse, 299 Category B images and 33,619 Category C images.

Children in the images were aged from approximately three to 16.

In police interview, officers said Turner revealed he liked to view indecent images of children aged four to 10 and admitted to "secretly" taking photographs of girls aged six to 11 in public places.

Officers also found 29 fictional stories – which described sexual abuse of children, but fell outside the Obscene Publications Act – when they searched Turner's home.

His jail sentence could set an important precedent in how such cases are treated in the future.

Hazel Stewart, from the National Crime Agency (NCA), said following the conviction: "The importation of these child sex dolls is a relatively new phenomenon.

"We know their purchase can indicate other offences against children, as was the case against Turner, who had a sickening stash of abuse images.

"The NCA and Border Force co-ordinate law enforcement activity, carrying out intelligence checks and offering specialist advice every time these indecent and obscene items are seized at the border.

"Importers of such obscene items should expect to have law enforcement closing in on them."

Jon Brown, NSPCC Head of Development, called on the government to criminalise the manufacturing of the dolls.

He said: "There is no evidence to support the idea that the use of so-called child sex dolls helps prevent 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 the 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."