It's momentary video game anarchy in the UK!
(TimesOnline) – People selling adult videos, including pornography, to children are to escape prosecution after the discovery of a Whitehall blunder that means that the 1984 law regulating the video industry was never enacted.
The disclosure that for 25 years the Act governing the classification and sale of videos, video games and now DVDs was never brought into force is a big embarrassment to both Conservative and Labour governments.
It also leaves the industry in disarray with the classification system designed to protect the under-18s from violent and explicit material no longer officially in operation.
Lavinia Carey, director-general of the British Video Association, which represents 90 per cent of the industry, said: “What a ludicrous situation to find ourselves in after all this time.”
Police and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are to be told to stop bringing any prosecutions until the Government brings in emergency legislation to re-enact the 1984 Video Recordings Act. Until then people will be able to sell videos, including violent and pornographic ones, to under-18s without fear of prosecution.
The video industry was stunned by the Government’s admission that the Act was not properly enacted 25 years ago. Officials in the Home Office had failed to notify the European Commission of the existence of the Act as they were required to do so under an EU directive.
The mistake was not spotted on two subsequent occasions, in 1993 and 1994. It was finally discovered during plans to update the law and introduce a new video-game classification system.
Barbara Follett, Minister for Culture and Tourism, said last night: “Unfortunately, the discovery of this omission means that, a quarter of a century later, the Video Recordings Act is no longer enforceable against individuals in United Kingdom courts.” In a letter to representatives of the video industry, Ms Follett said: “As the then British Government did not notify the European Commission of the VRA’s classification and labelling requirements, they cannot now be enforced against individuals in UK courts.”
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that it had received legal advice that people who had previously been prosecuted and convicted would be unable to overturn their convictions or seek compensation.
The Act was passed when Leon Brittan was Conservative Home Secretary and then amended under Michael Howard’s period at the Home Office. A Home Office spokesman said that it was likely the error had occurred because the European Directive was new at the time the Act was passed.
“The important thing is that we close this loophole as quickly as possible,” a spokeswoman said. No one should see this as a green light to act unlawfully. We will continue to prosecute breaches vigorously once this technical loophole is closed,” a spokeswoman said.
The British Video Association said that it is urging members to continue submitting work to the British Board of Film Classification and to continue labelling them under the system.
The Association represents 90 per cent of the industry with an annual turnover of over £2 billion and selling 250 million videos a year.
Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Culture Secretary, said: “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.”