Customs officers say their policy regarding child sex dolls is to detain the goods and hand them over to gardaí for investigation.

The development follows some uncertainty among authorities and legal experts as to whether or not possession, or importation, of the dolls constituted a criminal offence under Irish laws.

The legal issue was the subject of a landmark court ruling in Britain earlier this week when it was ruled the child sex dolls are regarded as obscene objects under UK Customs laws.

Following further queries from the Irish Examiner yesterday, Revenue said the Customs Act 2015 gave officers the power to detain objects like child sex dolls and pass them over to gardaí.

“This legislation gives a Customs officer dealing with any goods at import or export, powers to detain and hand them over to the Garda Síochána, or to any other relevant investigative authority, if the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect the goods may be required as evidence in any criminal proceedings,” a statement said.

On child sex dolls, Revenue also said in any case where a child sex doll or other material relating to paedophilia is found by Customs, its policy is to detain the goods under the provisions detailed above and deliver the goods to An Garda Síochána.

It said any investigation or prosecution would be a matter for gardaí and that, if a prosecution was taken, it would be up to the courts to “ultimately determine whether or not a criminal offence has been committed”.

Gardaí had told the Irish Examiner on Wednesday they believed the dolls, child-like in appearance, weight, and anatomy were covered by the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998.

“Our legislation appears to be wide enough,” said Chief Supt Michael Daly of the National Protective Services Bureau said. “It does seem to fall within child pornography laws.”

But he said he was referring the matter to the Garda Legal Section for advice and stressed the issue “has not been tested in court”.

Revenue Customs also, midweek, said prohibited items, including obscene material, may be seized by customs and added: “Depending on the facts and circumstances, possession of dolls of the type referred to may constitute an offence under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act.”

The Department of Justice said there were no current plans to amend the definition of child pornography further but that “issues such as this are kept under continuing review”.

Professor of law at the University of Limerick, Shane Kilcommins, said he believed any prosecution “would be contested in court” and it would be “difficult to prove”.

He said the 1998 Act was “broad” and child pornography was defined as “any visual representation” whose dominant characteristic is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of the genital or anal region of a child.

He said this could arguably include 3D representations like child sex dolls, but added: “The prosecution would have to prove that the dominant purpose of the doll is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of the genital or anal region of a child.

“A defendant might argue that the doll does not depict a child, or that a doll does not equate with a child for the purposes of the legislation.”

Customs would not say if they had detained a child sex doll, to date, but Chief Supt Daly said gardaí had “not come across them yet”.

He said there was “no doubt” they will come to Ireland and may already have been imported.


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