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New regime to check the classification of video games to introduce a rating of 12 for the first time

Date: (11 May 2012)    |    

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Under proposed plans to change laws selling video games rated for the over 12’s to younger children could well be punishable by up to six months in prison along with a £5,000 fine.
The government is endorsing the 12 rating enforceable on video games.
Ministers were also proposing a single classification system under the supervision of a new Video Standards Council (VSC).
The VSC will assess each game according to the existing Pan European Game Information scheme, which effectively has five categories, from suitable for all to adults only.
It will have the power to legally enforce ratings on games listed as 18, 15, and for the first time 12. It will also have powers to ban a product from the list.
Critics warn the European system may not be the appropriate scale to measure here because of different countries had different national standards for what constitutes graphic violence or sexual content.
At present in the UK, only games rated 15 and 18 carry legal penalties if they are sold to children below those ages. This was because there was a joint responsibility between the British Board of Film Classification and the PEGI scheme.
All games sold in Europe are regulated by the PEGI scheme but when they came to the UK featuring more graphic sexual and violent content it has to be classified by the BBFC.
With games traditionally rated 15 or 18 they are the only categories where selling to younger consumers can result in a prison term or a fine.
Technically a game meant for 12 years and above could be sold to children under that age in Britain. The latest change would change all that.
The BBFC would not be playing any role in classifying games unless they are very explicit and could face a R18 rating. This is primarily used for videos featuring explicit sex.
Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey said that the system would benefit both parents and industry by creating a stronger, simpler age-rating system. It will give parents greater confidence that their children can only get suitable games.
VSC chairman Baroness Shephard said it would finally give VSC the mandate to undertake the role of statutory video games regulator in the UK.
She said VSC was fully prepared and ready to carry out the vital role of providing consumers with a single, straightforward games rating system while ensuring that child-safety remained its first priority.
A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said the Video Standards Council and changes to the law on age classification are expected to come into effect by July.
Research suggests children are buying 18-rated video games – such as Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto, and Hitman – on the internet because traders don’t check their age.