Customs officials have returned 10 “personal massagers” seized from a George Town store after deciding they were not banned sex toys.
The massagers were confiscated from Reflections store in George Town in May by officers investigating an offense under section 157 of the Penal Code – a broad statute banning the import and distribution of obscene materials and “any other object tending to corrupt morals.”
The same law was used to arrest Cayman Brac artist Ronald “Foots” Kynes for exhibiting a series of nude carved wood sculptures earlier this year. He was charged Monday.
Stanley Panton, general manager of Reflections, said the product – a Bodywand Mini Massager – was a big seller at the store. He said Reflections had been bringing them in every few months for the past four years, had declared them to customs on entry and paid duty. He said he understood several other stores also sold the same product.
Mr. Panton said he was stunned when a customs officer came into the store in May and confiscated them.
He said, “I challenged the officer when she came to take them. I said, ‘You have already taken our money, we’ve been bringing these in for a long period of time, I don’t see how this can happen now.’”
He said the officer seized them and advised him to appeal to the customs department if he wanted to contest the confiscation. She later followed up to say the department had determined they were sex toys and would not be returned, Mr. Panton claims.
Collector of Customs Charles Clifford confirmed Monday that he had personally reviewed the matter after it was called to his attention and returned the massagers.
Mr. Clifford said, “The customs officers’ suspicion was based on their research concerning the particular product.”
He added, “I have concluded that there is simply not enough evidence to justify a referral to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Consequently, I have instructed that the items be returned to the Reflections store and provided appropriate advice to my officers on the matter.
“I have also spoken to the proprietor of Reflections concerning the matter and suggested to him that he take legal advice on section 157 of the Penal Code to ensure that none of his future imports give rise to any issues under that section of the law.”
Mr. Panton said the section of the law, prohibiting any object “tending to corrupt morals” was vague and open to interpretation.
He said, “Not only was it wrong for them to have confiscated these massagers, because they are not adult toys, as was determined, but the government really needs to modernize the law.
“Now that the conversation has been started, we would like to get further clarity on real adult toys. Are people allowed to bring them in or not?”
He said other items like waterpipes and hookahs were also banned. “We need to have a conversation about whether these items still need to be prohibited,” he said.
He said the mix-up over the massagers had cost the business sales. He said the store had been importing them in batches of 144 every three or four months, but had not been able to sell the product for the last six months.
Mr. Clifford declined to give his view on whether the importation, possession and distribution of sex toys should be an offense. He said, “The issue is not our primary focus as customs officers. It is a policy issue for the government to consider.”