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Manufacturers and industry bodies were in uproar today after a Sheffield gang of software pirates was let off the hook when trading standards ran out of cash to prosecute. £1 million worth of counterfeit CD computer games, some of which were believed to be for Sony Playstations, were seized last October along with £30,000 of equipment. Five men, four of whom had previous criminal records, were arrested in Sheffield. The men received a slap on the wrist and the group was said to have relaunched its operation within weeks, according to today’s Daily Telegraph. Vendors slammed the cautions that were handed out, saying the lack of funding into trading standards departments was jeopardising the software business. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) said it was disappointed in the outcome. Tracey Howe, a member of the BSA committee, said: "I suppose this is seen as a victimless crime. But it has a knock-on effect on us all because it takes people’s jobs, costs the country in unpaid taxes and undermines the industry as a whole." Howe added that the organisation was trying to get the police and trading standards departments to put more resources into this area. Sheffield trading standards office admitted that fighting software piracy was not high on its list of priorities. But Richard Platts, general manager of the Sheffield office, stressed: "There are a lot of issues surrounding this. We have not withdrawn from the case - we’ve put a lot of manpower and work into it." Platts was unable to comment on claims that the gang had relaunched their criminal activities shortly after release. ®

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