By Zoe Tabary
LONDON, Aug 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Recent criminal convictions prove a strong link between people who use lifelike child sex dolls and child abuse, a leading British charity said on Tuesday, calling for ownership of the "grotesque" dolls to be outlawed.
Britain should close a legal loophole which allows people to own child sex dolls even though it is illegal to import them, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said, amid a surge in seizures on its borders.
"Early evidence shows that those using these grotesque dolls are already harming children through their other online activities," NSPCC spokesman, Tony Stower, said.
"Six of the seven men who have been charged in the past year with importing child sex dolls also had indecent images of children," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
A British man was convicted in July of importing a child sex doll in a landmark case in the fight againt a new form of sex crime against children.
Police found more than 34,000 indecent images of children aged three to 16 on computers and hard drives in his home.
"The UK has some of the toughest powers in the world to deal with sex offenders and we are committed to ensuring that the system is as robust as it can be," a Home Office spokeswoman said.
"We continue to work with the police and other law enforcement agencies to ensure that the right powers are available for the authorities to tackle sexual crimes."
Opinion is divided over the use of sex dolls, which have the appearance, weight and anatomy of real children.
A Welsh charity said this month that the dolls should be made available on prescription to help prevent people who are sexually attracted to young children acting on their desires.
Paedophilia is a psychiatric disorder. Most treatment focuses on therapy, mentoring and supervision to help paedophiles control their behaviour.
Critics say sex dolls can be dangerous proxies to act out fantasies like rape or child abuse.
Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) has stepped up investigations into sex dolls since border officials noticed an increase in imports of child sex dolls in 2016 from Hong Kong and China using parcel carriers.
The surge in seizures led investigators to identify dozens of previously unknown suspected paedophiles, it said.
(Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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