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ELSPA sends open letter to Home Secretary over Manhunt controversy

British publisher trade body ELSPA has sent an open letter to the UK Home Secretary, David Blunkett, expressing serious concerns over the recent media controversy related to Rockstar's Manhunt title.

Media reports of a link between the game and a murder in Leicestershire earlier this year were compounded this week by comments from Keith Vaz MP, who also linked the game with the tragic events.

However, a new twist came in the case yesterday when Leicestershire Constabulary denied any link between the game and the murder, reiterating that the motive for the attack was robbery, and revealed that the game was found not in the perpetrator's bedroom, but in the victim's. A lawyer claiming to act for the victim's parents has since asserted that despite this, the game did belong to the killer.

The full text of the letter from ELSPA director general Roger Bennett to UK Home Secretary David Blunkett can be found below.

5th August 2004

Dear Mr Blunkett


As the trade organisation representing the computer and video games industry, we have been very concerned recently about the misleading and disingenuous reporting about the effects of playing interactive games software. In particular, the tragic case of Stefan Pakeerah's murder by Warren Le Blanc in Leicester, which was linked by some parts of the media and by Mr Keith Vaz MP, to a video game called "Manhunt", published quite legally by one of our members as a BBFC 18+ rated game. We will continue to uphold the legal right of this member and others to target their product at the burgeoning adult market for computer and video games in an honest and legal manner.

As you will know, despite many research projects into the effects of screen violence, some of which have been undertaken by eminent academics in their field, no link with violent behaviour has been found. Furthermore, I would like to reassure you that ELSPA members, that includes all the companies responsible for the distribution of computer and video games in UK, fully conform with both the letter and spirit of the law and the strict Codes of Practice our members must adopt on enrolment. ELSPA, on behalf of all its members and the members themselves, take its responsibilities extremely seriously in the context of these matters.

As a matter of fact, I feel sure you will already be aware that less that 1% of computer and video games published and distributed in UK attract an 18+ BBFC Rating and that in excess of 65% of all games are suitable for all ages.

It was unfortunate that Mr Vaz should speak out so irrationally against the companies concerned with the development and distribution of "Manhunt" and indeed our industry in general. Had he taken time to check with the Leicestershire Constabulary, he would have been informed that they do not and have not ever linked this brutal crime with any video game.

The UK computer and video games industry has a large stake-holding in the global market worth $20 billion. Some of the most successful games in this valuable market are produced in UK, employing many thousands of people and it is very much in the vanguard of "Creative Britain". The economic and cultural value of the interactive entertainment software industry is well recognised by many Government Depts as a major contributor to the UK economy and increasingly a cultural factor, as illustrated by the international Games Festival in Edinburgh later this month. In addition, London will host the first European trade event, European Games Network (EGN), in September this year and London is also the location for an international conference, "The Games Summit", held annually in June. A major exhibition for consumers, entitled "Game Stars Live" will take place concurrently with EGN at Excel, Docklands.

As a matter of interest, you may not be aware that our industry charity, Entertainment Software Charity (ESC), of which I am a Trustee, has funded specialist Schools status for eight schools across the country this year. In addition, we have also recently confirmed with the DfES that the games industry will fund the building of a new "City Academy" in Paddington, London. I hope you will recognise this as another illustration of levels of responsibility we attach to the status of our industry.

I hope you will accept that we felt it necessary to put the record straight in respect to these tragic events and that are pleased to be in a position to be proud of our industry's successful achievements and the standards of responsibility we have adopted.

Yours sincerely

Roger Bennett

Director General

Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association

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Rob Fahey: Rob Fahey is a former editor of who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.