Two men from Reading are being tried for offences under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act after setting up a website through which women could have sperm couriered to their house. The website, Fertility1st (formerly Sperm Direct and First4Fertility) allowed a database of donors to be searched according to physical characteristics, such as hair colour and height, and then for registered users to order a fresh sample, which would be collected by courier from the donor and taken directly to the purchaser's home along with a large syringe.
The service –costing £39 to register for the service, £300 for each sample and £150 for door-to-door courier– has led to a number of charges. If found guilty of making sperm available to the public without a license, storing gametes without a license and of, the new offence of, illegally procuring sperm, the pair could face up two years imprisonment.
Prosecuting counsel, David Connell, stated in court that: 'The defendants do not have a licence to conduct this activity. The defendants are providing a service whereby donor and purchaser can be put in touch with each other. It is the act of making it public, making it available, that the Crown say is an offence.'
Though the business was run from the Reading basement of one of the pair's homes and the samples were able to travel directly by courier from the donor to the purchaser, by creating the website, organising the courier company and acting as a broker they had created a mechanism that the prosecution claims constitutes 'a process by which gametes are made available' and that the donors and purchasers would be very unlikely to have come together without its co-ordination.
The offices of the company were raided as a result of a complaint received by Thames Valley Police from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in November 2008. The City of Westminster Magistrates' Court remanded Mr Gage (48) and Mr Woodforth (42) on bail, to Southwark Crown Court for a plea and case management hearing on September 23.