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BBFC role questioned in Parliament debate

Videogames allow the simulation of rape, and are the cause of real-life murders, according to one MP in a parliamentary debate on Friday.

Videogames allow the simulation of rape, and are the cause of real-life murders, according to one MP in a parliamentary debate on Friday.

Members of Parliament attended the debate to discuss the merits of a Private Member's Bill on violence in films and videogames, and decide if it would receive a Second Reading.

The Bill seeks to reform the BBFC in order to make it "accountable to Parliament and the public in a way that should encourage a return to more responsible decisions," in the words of its sponsor, Julian Brazier, Conservative member for Canterbury.

He was supported by Keith Vaz, Labour member for Leicester East, who has a long-standing connection with the violence issue following his stance on the murder of Stefan Pakeerah in 2004 in which he cited Rockstar's Manhunt as an inspiration - and he brought that particular example to light once again.

"As the House knows, my concerns about these issues arise from the brutal killing of Stefan Pakeerah, a 14-year-old Leicester schoolboy who was murdered in a savage attack in which he received 50 blows with a claw hammer - an attack that mirrored exactly a scene in the videogame Manhunt," he told the debate.

"I was not the first to say that; Giselle Pakeerah, his parent, has from the very beginning maintained and strongly believed that the fact that Warren Leblanc had a copy of Manhunt and that other children were looking at those scenes of violence led to the attack on Stefan."

The Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, Margaret Hodge, later pointed out that there had been no evidence to support Mr Vaz's ongoing claims.

"They may have made that statement, but the rationale for the statement is less clear," she said. "The game was discovered not in Warren Leblanc's possession but in the victim's possession.

"It does not feature the use of a hammer, and it was not considered by the police to be a contributory factor. No such connection was ever suggested in court.

"Indeed, the prosecution and defence barristers insisted in court that the video game had played no part in the killing. It was reported that Leblanc was motivated by fear of a gang to which he owed money."

Mr Vaz, who complained in part of his speech that proponents of his argument have been "pilloried in the press that is sponsored by the videogames industry," went on to discuss the differences between films and videogames.

"That is quite simple: videogames are different because they are interactive," he said. "People who are watching a film at the cinema cannot participate in what is happening on the screen, or if they do they are removed from the cinema.

"However, someone sitting at a computer playing a videogame, or someone with one of those small devices that young people have these days, the name of which I forgetâ¦PlayStations or PSPs, something of that kindâ¦Well, whatever they are called, when people play these things, they can interact.

"They can shoot people; they can kill people," he said, before adding: "As the honourable gentleman said, they can rape women," referring to Mr Brazier's earlier comments on films - not videogames - which appear to glorify the act.

Ed Vaizey, Conservative member for Wantage, questioned that last point later on - addressing Mr Brazier as Mr Vaz had left already -"I checked the point with the BBFC and found it to be completely unaware of any such videogame," he said.

"Is the honourable gentleman aware of any videogame that has as its intention the carrying out of rape or that allows the game player to carry out such an act? The BBFC and I are unaware of any such game."

Mr Brazier replied that he was unable to comment on "the rape in games issue".

Following the session, which lasted almost five hours and ended before proceedings had been completed, the vote on whether or not the Bill will proceed to a Second Reading will now take place when the debate resumes on Friday, when Ms Hodge will complete her response to the various remarks made during the first session, including those belonging to Mr Vaz.

As well as a CMS Select Committee investigation into the effects of violence on the internet and in videogames, the Byron Report set up by the Prime Minister is due to report before the end of this month.

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