hopkins doll
Brian Hopkins ordered a 3ft 9in doll from Hong Kong but Border Force officers at Stansted Airport seized the obscene item. NCA

A Plymouth man, who tried to smuggle a 3ft 9in child-like sex doll from Hong Kong into Britain, has been spared jail.

Brian Hopkins, from Mannamead, imported an anatomically correct 1.2m high sex doll in October last year to Heathrow Airport where police found the doll addressed to his home.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) also found hundreds of indecent images of children on Hopkins' mobile phone after they raided his home in November 2016.

The 40-year-old was handed a 10 month jail sentence, suspended for two years, after he admitted importing an indecent or obscene article; four counts of possessing indecent images of children and three counts of possessing extreme pornography.

Hopkins admitted buying the flat-chested doll to have sex with, but claimed he did not know importing it was illegal.

In July this year a UK judge ruled that child sex dolls, similar to that purchased by Hopkins, constituted obscene items.

Plymouth Crown Court heard how police found 600 indecent images of children on Hopkins' computer including 247 category A images and videos (the most serious); 341 category B and 196 category C.

Hopkins said he knew he should not have had the obscene images, but said he found it exciting to possess them.

Judge Paul Darlow also gave Hopkins a 10-year sexual harm prevention order and placed him on the sex offenders register for 10 years.

Darlow said according to the BBC: "very sad fact of life and a dark reflection on our community" that child sex dolls were "becoming part of the paraphernalia of child abuse".

Hazel Stewart, senior officer with the NCA, said: ""The importation of child sex dolls is a relatively new phenomenon but time and again importers are also guilty of associated offending against children as with Hopkins.

"They are a real flag of a sexual interest in children. We are working hard with our partners in Border Force to stop them entering the country and then investigating and prosecuting the importers."

Darlow said there was a "low risk" of Hopkins offending against children before ordering him to attend a rehabilitation course.

Defending Hopkins Ali Rafati said his client had little experience of sexual contact and had "never acted remotely inappropriately to children", the BBC reported.

Hopkins, who is now barred from working with young children for life, was ordered to pay £425 costs.