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Illegal sperm traders received suspended sentences

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Two illegal sperm traders who earned £250,000 by operating an online fertility service were sentenced at Southwark crown court yesterday.

The pair, Nigel Woodforth, 43, and Ricky Gage, 49, escaped immediate imprisonment after being convicted of three charges of providing sperm without a licence or third-party agreement, and instead received nine-month sentences suspended for two years,

Around 800 women signed up for the service, which operated under various names including Sperm Direct Limited and First4Fertility, and was ran out of the basement of Woodforth's home in Reading, Berkshire.

The service operated by Gage and Woodforth promised women a "life-changing opportunity towards motherhood". It also boasted of having more than 300 donors nationwide and a 37% success rate.

One woman told the court she paid around £600 per menstrual cycle. In return, she was given a chance to choose the ethnicity, height, hair colour, education and hobbies of her sperm donor. A courier would then deliver a box, wrapped in grey polythene and containing a pot of sperm and a 10ml syringe.

She decided to report the company to the Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority over their "unprofessional standards", including one instance when a copy of a donor's medical tests was sent to her with his name visible.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990

Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, companies providing fertility services must have a licence and ensure that both donors and clients have access to information and counselling, and also take steps to protect people against the risks of diseases such as HIV/Aids.

The defendants insisted they did not need a licence as they merely operated an "introduction database".

Sentencing the pair, Judge Deborah Taylor said: "Your disregard of the warnings you were given [by the Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority] is, in my judgment, a serious aggravating feature in this case."

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