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Massive Cross-Agency Net Snags St Helens Pirates

Wednesday 9th May/... Raids undertaken in St Helens have resulted in the arrest of seven people, one of whom had been using his house as a mini factory to manufacture illegal copied Xbox, PlayStation 2 and PC games.

The raids, codenamed 'Operation Respect', were carried out on Wednesday 2nd May at 6.00am by Merseyside Police's Anti-social behaviour Taskforce (AXIS) and targeted a number of premises known by members of the local community to be engaged in criminal activities, ranging from illegal copying of games and films (worth an estimated £150,000) to dealing in drugs, stolen motorcycles and SIM cards.

The swoop, in which four imitation firearms and eight vehicles (seven without insurance and one for 'red' illegal diesel were also recovered), was part of the Chief Constable's Total Policing initiative and involved massive multi-agency effort including representatives of ELSPA, The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council Trading Standards, HM Customs and Excise, Department for Work and Pensions, Truancy officers, local housing officials, Education department and Merseyside electric.

After a briefing with Police Inspector Claire Richards, investigators from ELSPA and St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council Trading Standards were granted access to a property in Chiltern Road, St Helens at 7.45am, which had earlier been sealed off at both ends by police and watched over by a 'Force' (Merseyside Police) helicopter, and where they discovered a mini copying factory and large quantities of Xbox, PlayStation 2 and PC games. In addition to this a further ten exhibits of hardware, including computers, laptops and copying towers were also found.

The occupants of the house were held in a single room as a search of the house took place took place, and then taken to the local police station where they were later bailed to be re-interviewed after further evidence has been gathered from the forensic examinations of the computers.

"The theft of computer and video games software and any other multimedia product by copying it is illegal and has a harmful impact on both local businesses and communities," said Michael Rawlinson, managing director of ELSPA. "ELSPA would like to applaud the efforts of all partner agencies concerned in the St Helens raids in what has been a massive collaborative effort to stamp out not only the illegal duplication and distribution of pirated games but also reduce broader crimes including anti-social behaviour."

Chief Inspector Mark Smith, of AXIS, said: "This is another example of how AXIS works in partnership with neighbourhood officers. The size and scale of this operation sends out a clear message to those involved in anti-social behaviour - that it will not be tolerated, and to those who are suffering because of it - we are committed o dealing with it effectively and efficiently."

Andy Dempsey, Head of Corporate and Community Safety, St Helens Council said: "The Council is pleased to be able to support this multi-agency operation. Crime and anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated in our communities and we will act, along with our partners, on information received to enable us to tackle those who commit crime and anti-social behaviour."

Ends.

EDITORS NOTES

About ELSPA - http://www.elspa.com

ELSPA (The Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association) was founded in 1989 to establish a specific and collective identity for the computer and video games industry. Membership includes almost all companies concerned with the publishing and distribution of interactive leisure software in the UK.

ELSPA's activities include: Official Chart and Industry Reports, Anti-Piracy UK and EU, PR and Communication, Events. More information on all these activities can be found at http://www.elspa.com.

About Software Piracy and its negative impact on both consumers and industry.

ELSPA estimates criminal gain through computer and video games piracy sits at approximately £540 million.

Piracy/counterfeiting is illegal and punishable by fines and jail sentences.

The illegal copying of software poses the very real threat of criminal prosecution and a criminal record, as well as the risk of massive personal financial loss under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Consumers have no recourse under law for faulty pirated games, which can damage hardware.

Counterfeited/pirated games are often mixed with obscene or pornographic material.

Local and national jobs are lost as result of pirate operations.

Proven links exist between many organised counterfeiting organisations and dealers in drugs and pornography.

For further information on ELSPA or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Tom Sargent/Laura West

Barrington Harvey

Tel: 01462 456780

Fax: 01462 456781

Email: tom.sargent@bhpr.co.uk/ laura.west@bhpr.co.uk

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GamesIndustry International is the world's leading games industry website, incorporating GamesIndustry.biz and IndustryGamers.com.

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