Sperm business owners escape jail

2010-10-12 15:02

LONDON – Two men who earned 250 000 pounds (about R2.7 million) through an unlicensed fertility company, matching sperm donors with women trying to conceive, have escaped jail.

Nigel Woodforth (43) and Ricky Gage (49) were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court, central London, today to nine months in jail, suspended for two years.

They had been convicted on three charges of providing sperm without a licence or third-party agreement.

“Your disregard of the warnings you were given is, in my judgment, a serious aggravating feature in this case,” Judge Deborah Taylor was quoted by the Press Association as saying.

Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, a licence is needed by anyone wanting to “procure, test or distribute” any sperm or eggs.

The two defendants are the first to be prosecuted under the Act.

Nearly 800 women had signed up to use the online service provided by the company, operating under various names including Sperm Direct Limited and First4Fertility, from the basement of Woodforth’s Reading home.

Recipients were advised to negotiate the payment of expenses to the donor, and to arrange medical tests, themselves.

The men had been warned by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that they would need a licence to operate the company under new rules introduced in July 2007.

The law was brought in to ensure that both donors and women wanting to conceive had access to information and counselling, and to help protect against the risk of diseases, including HIV.

Gage and Woodforth were arrested in April last year after an undercover police investigation.

Both defendants claimed they had operated an introduction service and did not need a licence as stipulated by the HFEA Act.

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