Australian Border Force officers have seized a large number of lifelike child sex dolls favoured by paedophiles, ordered online and sent via the post or through air cargo.
Data obtained by news.com.au shows the purchase of the sinister products by Australians continues, with 31 packages intercepted at in the first six months of 2020 alone, the majority in air cargo.
In the 12 months to June 30, a total of 86 childlike sex dolls were seized by ABF, it can be revealed.
"Child-like sex dolls and other child abuse material are symptomatic of the broader global threat posed by child sexual abuse, that's why the ABF works with its law enforcement and intelligence partners to further investigate these imports," a spokesman for the agency said.
"ABF officers at our air cargo and mail facilities are actively targeting these dolls, which are a prohibited import and are considered child abuse material.
"The ABF has a zero tolerance approach to child abuse material, including childlike sex dolls, and we use all powers available to us to protect Australians from anyone associated with these sickening activities."
Earlier this month, news.com.au revealed that one of the world's largest online marketplaces, Alibaba, contained a number of listings for replica child dolls, including infants and toddlers.
One of the sellers even provided a sickening video of an anatomically correct baby doll, demonstrating how it could be "used".
Advocacy group Collective Shout conducted an investigation that exposed a number of listings, despite previous commitments from the company to ban the sale of the dolls.
"I've been an activist with Collective Shout for 10 years and this is the most disturbing content I've seen," campaigner Melinda Liszewski said. "It is deeply distressing to view."
The investigation found large numbers of replica child dolls marketed as "young girl", "flat chest" and "sex dolls for men" sold on Alibaba by 18 different suppliers.
Some of the models were as small as 65cm, which is roughly the height of a 6-month-old baby.
The items are far from harmless, the ABF spokesman told news.com.au.
"Recent research by the Australian Institute of Criminology found that the use of these dolls may lead to an escalation in child sex offences – from viewing online child abuse material to contact sexual offending.
"It is also found that there is no evidence that these dolls have a therapeutic benefit in preventing child sexual abuse."
In September 2019, new legislation came into effect that made it an offence to possess a childlike sex doll, punishable with up to 15 years' imprisonment.
"The reforms also amended the definition of 'child abuse material' in the Criminal Code to put beyond doubt that it is an offence to, for example, use a carriage service such as the internet to advertise or solicit, or use a postal service to send, a childlike sex doll," the ABF spokesman said.
"An individual caught in possession of child abuse material, including a childlike sex doll, can be charged with importing Tier 2 goods. The maximum penalty [for attempted importation], if convicted, is up to 10 years' imprisonment and/or fines of up to A$525,000."
When the listings on Alibaba were revealed, the company took action to remove them and implement a number of "additional measures to prevent the items being relisted", a spokesperson said.
"We maintain a robust product listing policy that prohibits the listing by third-party sellers of any items depicting or suggestive of sex involving minors, and third-party sellers in breach of the policy are subject to our disciplinary measures."
In New Zealand, a Timaru man became the first person in the country to be jailed for importing a child sex doll when he was sentenced to 18 months in 2019.
Stephen Heppleston, 58, pleaded guilty to importing the child sex doll and possessing objectionable publications relating to the sexual exploitation of children.
SEXUAL HARM - DO YOU NEED HELP?
If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone contact Safe to Talk confidentially:
• Call 0800 044 334
• Text 4334
• Email email@example.com
• For more info or to web chat visit www.safetotalk.nz
Alternatively contact your local police station -
- Additional reporting, NZ Herald