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Australia bans Manhunt

Bloody video game spiked after 11 months on store shelves

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Australia has banned Manhunt, the grisly game claimed to have influenced the murder of a UK teenager earlier this year.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), a cross-state body, this week said it had revoked the game's MA15+ certificate. That classification indicates which age groups any given title can be sold to, in this case only people over the age of 15. This week's move in effect renders the sale of Manhunt in Australia illegal - the game is not suitable for anyone to play, the OFLC effectively said.

Indeed, "any existing stocks of this game held by retailers must be removed from the shelves immediately", the body warned.

The removal of the certificate follows a demand from Attorney General Philip Ruddock after a complaint by Western Australia state Justice Minister Michelle Roberts.

"In the Classification Review Board's opinion, the game warrants a refusal of classification because it contains elements beyond those set out in the classification guidelines and legislation for a computer game at the MA15+ classification," the OFLC said in a statement.

Manhunt has been on sale in Australia for almost a year now, so arguably the ban may do little to impact demand for the product. More to the point, if it's not suitable now, what made it so on its release in October 2003? The OFLC said it will provide a more detailed rationale in a few weeks' time.

In July, public attention was drawn to Manhunt after the parents of 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah claimed the game had influenced their son's killer, 17-year-old Warren Leblanc, who pleaded guilty to the crime.

That prompted UK retailers Dixons and Game to pull the title from their shelves, even though, again, it had been on sale since the previous autumn. Right-leaning newspapers frothed at the mouth in indignation that such stuff could be sold to the nation's youth. In fact, it shouldn't, as the title's 18 certificate makes clear.

Indeed, Leicester police, who investigated the murder, ruled out the game as an influence on the murder, which is believed to have been motivated by Leblanc's need to obtain money to pay back a drug-related debt. ®

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