Timaru man imports child sex doll; rates it 7/10

The first New Zealander accused of importing a child sex doll has admitted the charge.

Stephen Heppleston, 58, of Timaru, pleaded guilty to importing a prohibited item and possessing an objectionable publication involving the sexual exploitation of children when he made a brief appearance before Judge Joanna Maze in the Timaru District Court on Friday.

The offence occurred on May 10, 2018.

Heppleston was remanded on bail until May 2 for sentencing, when his risk to children will be assessed and eligibility for the child sex offender register decided.

In May 2018, Customs officers at the Air Cargo Inspection Facility in Auckland had examined a consignment sent from China and found it contained a life-like sex doll that resembled a young child.

Customs said at the time the dolls are considered obscene or indecent articles under the Customs and Excise Act 1996, making them prohibited from importation.

Customs manager investigations Bruce Berry said it had been closely monitoring international trends around child sex dolls and fine-tuning its targeting techniques, knowing that if such dolls are available overseas – they will turn up at our border too.

While Customs had previously made a handful of seizures this case was the “first ever prosecution for this type of prohibited import” adding that the arrest should serve as a warning to other potential importers.

“…. just because child sex dolls are available from overseas, it doesn’t make them legal in New Zealand,” Berry said.

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