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27/08/2009

Legal 'Mess' Over Underage DVDs

Anyone who sells violent video games or 18-rated DVDs to children below that age cannot be prosecuted.
The legal blunder was discovered during work on the Government's Digital Britain project, which aims to boost broadband and new media in the UK and harks back 25 years ago.
Dozens of prosecutions under a 1984 Act have been dropped because the government of the day failed to notify the European Commission about the law.
However, previous prosecutions will stand, according to the Department for Culture Media and Sport.
The Video Recordings Act (VRA) was brought in by Margaret Thatcher's government and set down that videos and video games must be classified and age rated by the British Board of Film Classification.
It made it illegal to sell violent video games to children and the most explicit adult films could be sold only in licensed sex shops.
But now, Culture Media and Sport Minister Barbara Follett has written to the industry bodies to inform them the act was "no longer enforceable".
In her letter, she said: "Unfortunately, the discovery of this omission means that, a quarter of a century later, the VRA is no longer enforceable against individuals in United Kingdom courts."
Mrs Follett said the government hoped to remedy the "unfortunate situation" as quickly as possible.
She asked the industry bodies to handle the situation with "care and sensitivity" to ensure "minimal" advantage is taken of the loophole.
The loophole means no one can be prosecuted until the law is passed again and that will take three months.
A spokeswoman from the government department said retailers had agreed to keep to the rules on a voluntary basis and previous prosecutions will still stand.
The Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was "outrageous" such an administrative error could go unnoticed for so many years.
"Much of the problem would have been avoided if they had sorted out the classification of video games earlier, as we and many others in the industry have been urging them to do," he added.
(BMcC)
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