Reading men 'made £250,000 from sperm website'

Ricky Gage (left) and Nigel Woodforth The men allegedly acted as brokers for women who wanted to conceive

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Two men made about £250,000 by illegally making sperm available over the internet, a court has heard.

Ricky Gage, 49, and Nigel Woodforth, 43, allegedly operated Fertility 1st, which made sperm available from anonymous donors, without a licence.

The men, from Reading, Berkshire, acted as brokers for women who wanted to conceive, Southwark Crown Court heard.

They deny two counts of procuring sperm illegally under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

The men argue that their company was simply an information site which acted as an introduction database, meaning they were not procuring or making sperm available.

'792 deliveries'

In the first case of its kind, jurors heard the website, which was run from the basement of Mr Woodforth's home, brought together women who wanted to conceive and men who wanted to donate sperm.

The site offered women a "life-changing opportunity", the court heard.

Clients were allowed to choose the ethnicity, height, hair colour and even hobbies of the sperm donor they wanted to use.

The prosecution said the women paid an £80 joining fee and £300 to use the service before being given access to details of anonymous donors.

Once selected, a delivery of the donor's sperm was arranged, at a cost of £150, through a courier firm, the court was told.

They could also contact the donor themselves and arrange for the delivery of his sperm to their home, either for self-insemination or through IVF, jurors heard.

A list showed 792 deliveries had been made by the company, which helped make the men an estimated income of £250,000 between October 2007 and November 2008, jurors heard.

Prosecutors said this amounted to procuring sperm, which was made illegal under rules brought in in 2007 unless the company had a licence.

'Undercover police'

Philip Bennetts, prosecuting, said: "In short, the website introduced men who wished to supply sperm to women who wished to use the sperm to impregnate themselves in order to have a child."

The men are accused of procuring sperm for one woman between March and June 2008 after she filled in an online form with her partner and paid fees to the pair.

She received the sperm in June but did not get pregnant.

The couple began to have doubts about the company when the anonymous donor's name was mistakenly revealed to them, the court heard.

The men were arrested in April 2009 after an undercover police operation, it was heard.

On the second charge, Mr Gage, of Old Bath Road, Sonning, Reading, and Mr Woodforth, of St John's Road, Reading, are also accused of procuring sperm between October 2007 and November 2008.

The pair had been warned by the Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority (HFEA) that they would need a licence to operate their company under regulations 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 risks of diseases including HIV.

The trial continues.

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