Loophole allows children to buy adult games

Written by Joe Martin

August 26, 2009 | 10:59

Tags: #court #law #ratings

Companies: #bbfc #uk #uk-government

A legal loophole has been uncovered in the UK which has exempted all games stores in the UK from prosecution for selling adult-rated computer games to minors. Even worse, the loophole has existed for 25 years and nobody noticed. Dozens of prosecutions which are currently in the works have suddenly been dropped too.

The mistake itself is quite simple - a simple administration error meant that the European Commission was not notified about the law, which prevents it from being enforceable.

The BBC reported the error first, with UK Minister for Media, Sport and Culture Barbara Follet writing to relevant industry bodies to inform them that the act was not enforceable and pleading with them to exercise care and judgement until the mistake can be rectified.

The government is apparently working to fix the situation as fast as possible - but it will take at least three months to pass the law again and get approval from the EC.

In the meantime, most large retailers have confirmed that they'll be keeping to the rules on a voluntary basis and the government has ensured that all past convictions will stand.

"Our legal advice is that those previously prosecuted will be unable to overturn their prosecution or receive financial recompense," a government spokesperson told the BBC.

"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," added Shadow Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt.

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