VSC Members Area

Online Training


Attention all members!  You can now download the GRA rating information app

If a customer wants to know why Game X was rated PEGI 16, you can look it up and tell them exactly what the rating defining elements were enabling them to make a well-informed choice. 
 
This is only available to VSC members. Simply download the app (it's available for both Apple and Android products) via iTunes or Google Play, or simply follow these links as appropriate:
 
 
Then use your eLearning credentials to log in
 
  • Ideal for use in store on a tablet kiosk

  • or keep it mobile with store staff having in depth knowledge in their pockets!


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

To access our training courses for members please log in below.

 
Upon completion of the online training session, participants are required to complete and pass a test to ensure that they have fully understood the training. Successful participants are issued with VSC certificates to certify that they have achieved the necessary level of knowledge required.  Records of these 'exams' are kept on our database and are available to the designated administrator.
 
 
 
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VSC Profile

What we stand for

What is the VSC?

The VSC is a non-profit making company established in 1989 in response to Government concerns about the video industry.  

It established a Code of Practice designed to promote high standards within the video industry and to ensure that pre-recorded videos and DVDs are provided to the public in a responsible manner. In July 1993 the Code of Practice was extended to promote high standards within the video games industry.
 

The Code of Practice incorporates the Code of Practice Rules which are a mixture of the law, proper business practices and common sense.

All sectors of the video and games industries and other non-business organisations (libraries, universities) who may sell, rent or loan out audio-visual media are invited to become members of the Code of Practice.  

The VSC supports the anti-piracy activities of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and The UK Association for Interactive Entertainment (UKIE).


In 1994 the VSC, in conjunction with UKIE (formerly ELSPA), established the voluntary UK only ELSPA system of age rating video games which were exempt from legal classification under the Video Recordings Act. The system was designed to assist parents and others in deciding whether a game was suitable for their child or any young person under their control.
 
The VSC administered the ELSPA system until 2003 when it was superseded by the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) system.
 
The PEGI system for the age rating of video games now operates across more then 30 countries of Europe and beyond (including the UK). It is jointly administered by the VSC and the Netherlands Institute for the Classification of Audiovisual Media (NICAM).  

In 2012 the PEGI system was effectively incorporated into UK law and the VSC was appointed as the statutory body responsible for the age rating of video games in the UK using the PEGI system.

Origins of the VSC

The VSC was established in 1989 at the request of the then Home Secretary as a body set up to develop and oversee a Code of Practice designed to promote high standards within the video and DVD industry. The Code was subsequently expanded to promote high standards within the video games industry. The Code requires compliance with both the letter and spirit of the law.

Videos, DVDs and video games bring entertainment, pleasure and enjoyment to many millions of people but they are also a very powerful means of communication. The industries concerned owe a duty of care to their customers and the public generally and in particular a duty of care to protect children and young persons from potentially unsuitable material. The VSC will continue to do its utmost to ensure that this duty is discharged.

Throughout its history the VSC has held itself accountable to Government (initially the Home Office and in more recent years the Department of Culture, Media and Sport).

The VSC has established Staff Training Guidelines for retailers and others responsible for supplying videos, DVDs and video games to the public. The Guidelines have been approved by the trading standards authorities and place an emphasis on responsible trading and in particular the duty not to supply age-restricted products to persons below the specified ages. The VSC will continue to develop and enhance the Guidelines to meet changing circumstances and technological developments.

Since 1994 the VSC has been responsible for the age rating of video games. Initially this responsibility extended to the UK only when, on behalf of the UK Interactive Entertainment Association (formerly ELSPA), it administered the ELSPA system of age rating. In 2001/2 it took part in wide ranging discussions leading to the establishment of the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) system of age rating for video games. The PEGI system superseded the ELSPA system and since 2003 the VSC has been an administrator of the PEGI system which now covers the UK and over 30 other countries of Europe and beyond. The VSC has more experience in the age rating of games than any other body in Europe.

The VSC took part in extensive discussions leading to the establishment of PEGI Online in July 2007. PEGI Online represents a unique system of control for online sites making video games available to the public. This is of particular importance as an ever increasing percentage of video games are supplied to the public (by way of download and otherwise) from such sites. The VSC acts as an administrator of the PEGI Online system.

In 2012 the VSC was appointed by UK Government to act as the designated body responsible for the age rating of video games supplied in the UK.

How the VSC will operate

The VSC will operate in a manner which is both open and transparent and will remain accountable to both UK public views and opinions and the requirements of the UK law. In fulfilling this task it will:
  • Observe all due standards of ethical behaviour, conduct and governance.
  • Maintain all generally accepted and legally required business practices.
  • Maintain an internal management structure that ensures both effective control and approval of decisions made and the efficient and effective implementation of its responsibilities.
  • Have a Chair and Vice-Chairs who shall remain primarily responsible for the activities of the VSC (GRA) as the UK designated body and otherwise.
  • Have a Board of Directors which properly reflects not only the video, DVD and video games industries, but also the interests of independent observers of the activities of the VSC (including those concerned with child and family welfare).
  • Have a Director General responsible for the executive management of the VSC and who shall report to the Chair and Vice-Chairs.
  • Have an executive management team which is fully capable of ensuring all due discharge of VSC responsibilities as the UK designated authority (GRA) and otherwise.
  • Maintain sufficient staff to fully and effectively discharge its responsibilities as the UK designated authority and otherwise.
  • Maintain proper systems of internal control and approvals and be subject to an external independent audit of its procedures.
  • Establish an effective procedure for deciding whether a game is suitable for supply in the UK and strengthen this decision making process by forming an expert advisory panel to advise on legal, psychological and clinical aspects.
  • Establish an open, transparent, fair and equitable appeals procedure to deal with instances where a game is deemed unsuitable for supply in the UK.
  • Ensure that UK consumers have access to a system whereby they can enquire or complain about age ratings given under the PEGI system, or to submit questions about the PEGI age rating system and the role of the VSC generally. It will ensure that all such enquiries, complaints and questions are dealt with in a proper and appropriate manner.
  • Ensure a proper and effective contact with the UK law enforcement agencies with a view to providing them with all information they may require to effectively discharge their responsibilities.
  • Ensure a proper and effective contact with UK Government authorities with a view to establishing that the VSC is properly carrying out its UK responsibilities.
  • Continue to participate in the continuing development, enhancement and administration of the PEGI Online system notwithstanding that this may be outside the direct control or influence of UK law. Promote and participate in all video games industry and other campaigns designed to extend and enhance UK public understanding and knowledge of the PEGI and PEGI Online systems.
  • Promote, originate and participate in surveys of UK public opinion towards video games and the operation of the PEGI and PEGI Online systems and to use all endeavours to ensure that both systems reflect the results and recommendations of any such surveys.
  • Maintain, promote, enhance and encourage membership of its Code of Practice and the associated Staff Training Guidelines. Produce an Annual Report providing details of the operation of the VSC, its structure and method of operation, the results of its operation, details of significant matters of concern and how such matters have been dealt with, statistical details and a financial statement and audited accounts.
  • Operate on an efficient and cost effective basis.
  • Generally promote the VSC as a trusted and respected regulatory authority.

Statement of intent

As the VSC the VSC will:
  • Continue to develop and enhance the VSC Code of Practice.
  • Continue to develop and enhance the Staff Training Guidelines for retailers and others responsible for supplying videos, DVDs and video games to the public and ensure that the Guidelines take into account changing circumstances, technological developments and new methods of supply.
As a statutory designated authority and PEGI administrator the VSC will:
  • Ensure that video games are properly age rated under the PEGI system into advisory and age-restricted categories that are appropriate for supply in the UK and in fulfilling this function it will trade under the name GAMES RATING AUTHORITY (GRA).
  • Ensure that the PEGI system of age rating of video games continues to take UK sensitivities and public attitudes into account.
  • Have all regard to whether any video game is suitable for supply in the UK and, in fulfilling such task, have all due regard to both the need to protect game players (particularly the young) from potentially unsuitable material and the right of game players to exercise a freedom of choice.
  • Ensure that the UK public is made aware of the PEGI system of age rating for video games and provide them with such additional information as they may require to make fully informed decisions as to whether any video game is suitable for them or (more importantly) those under their control.
  • Keep itself informed as to any new or changed methods of supply of video games to the public and ensure that both the GRA and the PEGI system keep abreast of all such new and changed methods and implement any necessary changes to deal with them.
  • Provide the UK law enforcement agencies with all information that they may require to enable them to discharge their responsibilities.
  • Continue to provide the international video games industry with an understandable and cost-effective means of supplying video games to consumers in the UK.
  • Continue to provide an age rating system for consumers of video games in the UK that is clear, understandable and effective.
 
 

The future of the VSC

The VSC will continue to have special regard to the fact that the video, DVD and video games industries owe a duty of care to their customers and the public generally and in particular an obligation to protect children and young persons from potentially unsuitable material.

The VSC will continue to do its utmost to ensure that this responsibility is properly discharged.

In its position as the UK designated authority (GRA) it will have particular regard to its responsibility to operate within and reflect the requirements of UK law.

In its position as administrator of the PEGI and PEGI Online, it will continue to ensure that UK sensitivities and public opinion are properly reflected in these Pan-European systems whilst acknowledging that these systems have also to properly reflect views and opinions in other participating countries. It will use all endeavours to participate in the establishment of PEGI as a leading worldwide regulatory system. In its position as the UK designated body (GRA) and PEGI administrator, it will keep informed about new and changed technological developments and ensure that its operations can properly deal with all such developments. The VSC will endeavour to gain and maintain the respect of all interested observers both in the UK and throughout the world.

VSC Profile

Who we are

Who Makes Up The VSC?

The VSC has a Board of Directors which comprises a Chair and two Vice-Chairs, representatives from the video and games industries together with representatives from the child and family welfare sector.
Tony Lake (Chair)
Tony Lake joined the VSC as Vice-Chair in December 2009, having recently retired as Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police. He was appointed as Chair in July 2014.
 
He served for 36 years in the Police Service and has worked in five forces. He spent the first 20 years of his career in the Metropolitan Police before transferring to the West Yorkshire Police in 1992, where he was one of the first people to introduce a new style of policing based on local communities. He attended the Senior Command Course at Bramshill in 1994 and went onto become an Assistant Chief Constable in Sussex and Deputy Chief Constable of the British Transport Police in 2000.
 
He also contributed to developing major policy issues as a member of the Association of Senior Police Officers (ACPO) in areas such as the regulation of the private security industry and police finance As Chief Constable of Lincolnshire he headed up the ACPO Forensic Science portfolio and was spokesman for these issues for over 4 years. He was Chairman of the National DNA Database and regularly spoke on the use of forensic science. He worked closely with the FBI on developing DNA protocols and was guest speaker on several occasions at international conferences.
 
Having retired from the Police Service in 2008 he has been involved in consultancy work with a leading forensic science provider and continues to be involved in a variety of police related subjects.
Iain Muspratt (Vice-Chair)
Iain is a chartered accountant and he spent his early career in the city working for Charterhouse Group. He became Chief Executive of The Guild Organisation in 1974 and during his period of office the business expanded rapidly and developed overseas offices and interests throughout Middle East, Europe and Africa. The company distributed programmes for the BBC and most ITV companies. It also had production interests ranging from management training programmes to an involvement with ‘Super Ted’ and the initial series of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’. In the late 70’s the company became a major independent distributor in the home video market.
 
In 1985 he and his business partners founded the Home Entertainment Corporation which became the UK's second largest video rental retailer. HEC was also very involved in video games retailing as well as film production and distribution.
 
Since 1974 Iain has played a major role in Industry bodies and was instrumental in the founding of the VSC in 1989. He is a past Chairman of the British Video Association and British Screen Advisory Council. He has a wealth of experience as a producer, distributor and retailer.
British Association For Screen Entertainment (BASE) (represented by Liz Bales)

The British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE), previously known as the British Video Association (BVA), has a proud heritage representing the interests of publishers and rights-owners of pre-recorded filmed entertainment for the past 35 years.

In a world of evolving technology and fluid consumer behaviour, the primary objective of the British Association for Screen Entertainment is to champion the growth of screen entertainment across disc and digital, while maintaining a business environment with the fewest regulatory burdens.

Our members already represent over 95% of this £2.24 billion video market and include film and television companies and independent labels, all of whom produce, license and distribute film, TV, sport, fitness, music video, children’s and special interest programming.

We welcome new members from across the audio-visual ecosystem, from smaller independents to established players, offering flexibility through tiered levels of membership to suit different needs.

Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) (represented by Kim Bayley)
ERA is a UK trade organisation formed specifically to act as a forum for the retail and wholesale sectors of the music, video, DVD and Multimedia products industry. ERA represents both physical and digital retailers and wholesalers and operates via 4 boards, Music, Digital, Video and Games.
 
ERA was formed in 1988 by a group of record dealers - independents, multiples and wholesalers who saw the need to initiate constructive dialogue between dealers, the record companies and their trade body the BPI (British Phonographic Industry). ERA has established links with other industry Association and governmental departments as a respected voice within the industry. ERA is affiliated with NARM and other overseas retail Associations, with a view to exchanging information and to pool knowledge.
 
ERA also exists to communicate and negotiate with government departments and local authorities on behalf of its members, to monitor legislation affecting its members and to oppose any legislation which might be contrary to members’ interests. Either alone or in concert with others with others, ERA also involves itself in promoting the industry, for example through events such as the Mercury Music Prize or the Brit Awards.
 
ERA is not a discount negotiating body for retailers and cannot function in any way as a cartel or become involved in terms of trading between individual members and suppliers. Its aims are to ensure the highest standards of retail and wholesale in the music (and related products) industry, and to encourage and provide formal and informal contact between members, the public and the industry.
 
ERA’s business is conducted via a Council of 18 elected from the association’s members.
 
ERA is a member of the Trade Association Forum and abides by its code of conduct
UK Interactive Entertainment Association (UKIE) (represented by Jo Twist)
UKIE (formerly ELSPA) is the UK’s leading videogames trade body and its membership includes almost all major companies involved with the publishing and development of videogames in this UK.
 
Founded in 1989, UKIE works to comprehensively protect, promote and provide for its members. It oversees the country’s retail sales charts and it works with government and government departments on everything from age rating regulations to incentives that can help ensure the UK remains a major force in the global videogames industry. UKIE also promotes career advice and opportunities to attract a suitably well-qualified workforce that is essential for the industry to remain relevant and vital.
 
UKIE rigorously defends the Intellectual Property rights of its members via its Intellectual Property Crime Unit (IPCU), which works with police forces and trading standards departments around the country to investigate and prosecute those involved with selling or installing circumvention devices, console ‘chipping’, copied videogames and more.
 
Additionally, the association is heavily involved in promoting safe, healthy videogaming for all comers and offers sound advice for players, parents and guardians via their website, www.askaboutgames.com. Their ongoing Corporate Social Responsibility programme includes partnerships with a number of the UK’s leading charities and youth organisations.
Representing the child & family welfare sector
Chris Atkinson
Chris has a strong child protection background and has worked in the children’s charity sector for most of her career including 16 years at the NSPCC. Chris brings a unique 360 degree perspective on online child safety having worked within the children’s charity, law enforcement and new media industry sectors.
 
Chris has also sat on various Government taskforces, including the Bichard Implementation Programme, the Sexual Offences Advisory Committee and the Home Office Task Force on Child Protection and the Internet, helping to develop Government policy on protecting children from sexual abuse, trafficking and online child safety. She is also a member of UKCISS. Chris is a former Non - Industry Executive Board member of the Internet Watch Foundation (2004-2007).
 
In 2005, Chris was seconded by the NSPCC to the Association of Chief Police Officers to work with Government and the National Crime Squad to help develop a national centre to deal with a range of online offences against children. This was launched in April 2006 as the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)
 
Chris has two children, one teenager and a pre teen.
Mary MacLeod
Mary MacLeod is an independent family policy adviser and a leading voice on children and family welfare. She was the founding Chief Executive of the Family and Parenting Institute. Under her leadership the Institute became a key independent think tank, influencing government policy and the public debate on families and parenting.
 
Formerly of Barnardo’s, Lothian Region Social Work Department, ChildLine and the Universities of Edinburgh and North London, she has written widely about child and family welfare.
 
She has been a board member of the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority, the Family Justice Council, and numerous government and non-government research and policy advisory groups on children and families including the DCSF Assessment Panel on the effects of Commercialisation on Children.
 
She is an Executive Board Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, a Trustee of Gingerbread and of the Internet Watch Foundation, Chair of the DCSF advisory group on private fostering and of the advisory Group of Safenetwork. She is also a board member of the Child and Family Court Advisory Service and a non-executive Director of the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust. In 2008 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Open University and an OBE for services to children and families.
Harry Marsh
Harry is currently a freelance consultant in the UK voluntary sector; advising a wide range of charities and charitable trusts on governance, strategy, project management, diversity and fund raising. He is a consultant to the Family and Parenting Institute in relation to the Parenting Fund programme supported by DCSF and is an adviser to the John Lyon’s Charity on disability issues and the Trustees and Staff of Carers UK.
 
He was previously a board member of the General Social Care Council (GSCC) for 8 years, 2001-09, including 2 years as Vice Chair and 6 years as Chair of the Audit Committee. He was a board member of the Children and Families Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) for six years, 2004-10; lead Board member for diversity and member of its Audit Committee.
 
He has also been Chief Executive of the charity Contact a Family for 12 years (1988 -2000), Chair of the Carers Alliance (1990-98), Chair of the Council for Disabled Children (1992-98), Trustee and Vice Chair of the National Children’s Bureau (1988-98), Chair of the Peter Bedford Trust (1989-98), Trustee of the Markfield Project (1992-98) and Assistant Director of the charity Family Service Units (1970-88).
 
He was awarded MBE in 2007 Honours List for services to children and families. He is married with two children and four grandchildren. He has a BA degree from the Open University and is a Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Non-aligned
Paul Bennun
Paul is a senior communications strategist. He has a wide-ranging history of successfully implementing communications and marketing strategies, with substantial retail and video gaming experience.
 
Currently, Paul is Communications Businesss Partner at Vodafone UK, partnering with the Consumer Director. Most recently, Paul worked in PR and internal communications at Game Retail Ltd, working across internal, corporate, consumer and supplier audiences. Partnering with the CEO and Directors, he played an instrumental role in the flotation of Game Digital Plc.
 
His career history also covers the pub and leisure and charity sectors, the latter of which gives him a strong insight into the operations and challenges of non-profit organisations.
Charles Webster
Charles has worked for over 40 years in marketing and product development in the home entertainment industry, first in the music business with Decca and EMI and then in the visual product sector with MGM/UA, Clear Vision and the Delta Leisure Group.

He now operates the industry consultancy An Awfully Big Adventure.

Reporting to the Board is the Director General who is responsible for the VSC senior executives and staff:
Peter Darby (Director General)

Peter is a retired senior police officer having served for 34 years with the Metropolitan Police Service. During this period he carried out numerous roles and spent the majority of his service in Special Branch where he obtained valuable experience in management of people and operations, including head of training. He implemented a number of innovative initiatives during this time and liaised considerably with the Home Office and other government departments.

 
He joined the VSC in 2003 at the inception of the PEGI system and has been heavily involved in its operation and development since then. He has held an interest in computing and video games since the 1980s when he first learnt how to code computer programs.
 
He was Director of Operations before taking his present position in January 2014.
Laurie Hall (Director of Business Affairs)

Laurie is a qualified solicitor with many years’ experience in the music, video and video games industries. He was appointed Secretary-General of the VSC when it was established in 1989. Prior to that he was Business Affairs Manager at EMI Records, Director of Business Affairs at MCA International, Managing Director at CIC Video and Commercial Director at Polygram.

In 1994 he was responsible for the establishment of the ELSPA games rating system which applied in the UK and which was administered by the VSC until it was superseded by the PEGI system in 2003.

 
In 2001/2 he was part of the pan-European team responsible for the establishment and launch of PEGI. Since then he has been part of the PEGI administration team along with his colleagues at NICAM in Holland.
 
From 2003 he served as Director General before taking his present postion in January 2014.
 
 
The VSC has an independent Expert Advisory Panel established to advise the Chair and Vice-Chairs in matters relating to the age rating of video games and any decision to refuse to age rate any game for supply in the UK:
Prof. Tanya Byron
Tanya is a consultant clinical psychologist specialising in child and adolescent mental health. She has an NHS career spanning twenty years working in many areas of mental health; currently her clinics run two days per week.
 
Tanya broadcasts on TV and radio (Little Angels; House of Tiny Tearaways; Am I Normal?; All in the Mind). She has a weekly column in The Times and monthly columns in Good Housekeeping and Girl Talk.
 
Tanya has authored three books on parenting (e.g. Your Child – Your Way [Penguin, 2007]) and has edited an encyclopaedia of child development in the early years (Your Toddler Month by Month [Dorling Kindersley, 2008]).
 
Tanya co writes comedy with Jennifer Saunders including The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle (BBC2). Tanya is the patron of the charity Prospex and chancellor of Edge Hill University. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a trustee of the Family and Parenting Institute.
 
In 2008 Tanya was made Professor in the Public Understanding of Science.
 
Tanya is an independent government advisor on children, young people and the digital media - in 2008 she published The Byron Review: Safer Children in a Digital World and sat on Lord Carter’s Digital Britain advisory board (2009).
 
Tanya is married to the actor Bruce Byron (DC Terry Perkins in The Bill) and is the proud mother of Lily (14) and Jack (11).
Dr Guy Cumberbatch
Guy is a Chartered Psychologist and Director of The Communications Research Group in Birmingham. He graduated from University College Cardiff with a Special Honours degree in Psychology and completed his PhD in Information Processing at Leicester University. Following three years post doctoral work on television violence at Leicester’s Centre for Mass Communication Research, he joined Aston University’s Applied Psychology Department as a lecturer in Multi-variate Statistics. After serving terms as Senior Lecturer and Head of Psychology, he left academia to establish CRG (UK) LTD as an Aston Science Park company.
 
Guy attaches great importance to objectivity and thus half of all the research done by CRG has been for the regulators and half has been for broadcasters, production companies and distributors. He has been expert witness for both defence and prosecution in numerous legal cases involving the media, many of which have been test cases where new principles have been established.
 
Publications include Mass Media Violence and Society (Elek Science, 1975); A Measure of Uncertainty: The Effects of the Mass Media (Libbey, 1989); Pornography: Impacts and Influences (Home Office, 1989); Media Violence: Research Evidence and Policy Implications (Council of Europe, 1995) and Where Do You Draw the Line?: Attitudes and Reactions of Video Renters to Sexual Violence in Film (BBFC, 2002).
 
Guy was a leading expert witness for the Home Affairs Select Committee: Video Violence and Young Offenders (HMSO, 1994) and served on the PEGI (Pan European Games Information) Appeals Committee in Brussels. Currently he is chairing a British Psychological Society working party into the effects of pornography.
Geoffrey Robertson QC
Geoffrey Robertson QC is founder and head of Doughty Street Chambers. He is a 'distinguished jurist' member of the United Nations Justice Council, having served as the first President of the Special Court in Sierra Leone.
 
He has argued many landmark cases in media, constitutional and criminal law in the European Court of Human Rights, the House of Lords, the Privy Council and Commonwealth courts. He has recently appeared in the Court of Final Appeal for Hong Kong, the Supreme Court of Malaysia, the Fiji Court of Appeal, the High Court of Australia and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
 
He has appeared before Old Bailey juries in some of the most celebrated trials including Oz, Gay News, The ABC Trial, "The Romans in Britain", and the Brighton bombing.
 
He has conducted a number of missions on behalf of Amnesty International to South Africa and Vietnam, and led the 1992 Bar Council / Law Society Human Rights mission to Malawi. In 1990 he served as counsel to the Royal Commission investigating trafficking in arms and mercenaries to the Columbian drugs cartels. He was made a Bencher of the Middle Temple in 1997.
 
He is the author of many books including Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice (3rd edition, 2006); Media Law (with Andrew Nicol QC, 5th edition, 2007); Freedom, the Individual and the Law (8th edition, 1993); and a memoir, The Justice Game (1999) which sold over 150,000 copies.
 
He is a Recorder, a Master of the Middle Temple, Council Member of Justice, Trustee of the Capital Cases Trust and a Visiting Professor in Human Rights Law Queen Mary College, University of London.
The VSC has an independent Appeals Panel established to hear and adjudicate upon any appeal from any decision to refuse to age rate any game for supply in the UK:
Baroness Kennedy (Chair)
Helena Kennedy is a leading barrister and an expert in human rights law, civil liberties and constitutional issues. She is a member of the House of Lords and chair of Justice – the British arm of the International Commission of Jurists. She is a bencher of Gray's Inn and President of the School of Oriental and African studies, University of London. She was the chair of Charter 88 from 1992 to 1997, the Human Genetics Commission from 1998 to 2007 and the British Council from 1998 to 2004. She also chaired the Power Inquiry, which reported on the state of British democracy and produced the Power Report in 2006. She has received honours for her work on human rights from the governments of France and Italy and has been awarded more than thirty honorary doctorates.
 
In Helena's practice of law as a barrister – she is a member of the Doughty Street Chambers in London – she has acted in many of the most prominent cases of the last 30 years including the Brighton Bombing, the Michael Bettany espionage trial, the Guildford Four appeal and the bombing of the Israeli embassy. She has also acted in many homicide trials with a domestic setting. She was the British member of the recent International Bar Association Task Force on Terrorism. She recently chaired an inquiry for the Royal College of Pathologists and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health into sudden infant death, in the aftermath of miscarriages of justice where mothers were wrongly convicted of murdering their babies. As a life peer she also participates in the House of Lords on issues concerned with human rights, civil liberties, social justice and culture. She has led the opposition to encroachments on the right to jury trial and for her courageous stand against the government was awarded the Spectator's Parliamentary Campaigner of the Year Award in 2000. She is currently on the board of the Independent newspaper, which she has done since 1998, is a member of the Media Standards Trust and has been a trustee of the British Museum since 2005.
 
She is a patron of many charities, including Poets in the City, Safe Hands (a charity which supports maternal and infant health in Ethiopia), MAP (Medical Aid for Palestinians of which she is President) the Civil Liberties Trust and the Patients Association.
Anthony Lilley

Anthony is an award-winning media producer with experience in the commercial and public sectors spanning TV, online, mobile, console games and print.  He is a member of the Content Board of OFCOM, a trustee of the English National Opera, Chair of digital culture agency, Lighthouse, and was recently appointed to the Gambling Commission. He holds or has held Visiting Professorships at Oxford and Bournemouth Universities and is a school governor in East Sussex where he lives with his wife and two young children.  He was awarded the OBE for services to media and the creative industries in 2008.



Kyrie James
Chair, Member of the International Association of Women Judges; Associate - Rapporteur for the UK Rapporteur’s Working Party on Vulnerable Persons of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges; legal chair to Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.

John Grieve CBE QPM

John served as a senior New Scotland Yard detective over a 37 year period on Murder, Robbery, Drugs, Intelligence, Training and Counter Terrorism Units and as Borough Commander in East London. Since retirement ten years ago he teaches and writes at two universities, Portsmouth and London Metropolitan, and acts as an adviser to a number of investigations and crisis reference groups.



Prof. Barry Everitt Sc.D. F.R.S. F.Med.SCI
Barry is Provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust and Director of Research, University of Cambridge.  He is a Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience and a former Master of Downing College, Cambridge. He has over 40 years' experience in evaluating data and evidence in psychology and neuroscience.

VSC Code of Practice

Standards of Conduct

The VSC code of practice

  1. The Video Standards Council ('VSC') is a non-profit-making company limited by guarantee not having a share capital and was registered in England and Wales on the 11th July 1989. The VSC administers a registration scheme whereby members of the video entertainment and video games industries in the United Kingdom register as members of and agree to abide by a Code of Practice ('Code').

    The video entertainment industry refers to both pre-recorded packaged media (including VHS cassette, DVD, Blu-ray disc, UMD) and the digital supply of audiovisual content.

    The video games industry refers to both packaged media and the online supply of interactive video games.

    The Code has been designed to promote high standards within the video entertainment and video games industries and otherwise to ensure that audiovisual content and video games are supplied to the public in a responsible manner. Such supply includes the supply of physical products, soliciting orders online for the supply of physical products and digital supply by way of download, streaming or otherwise supplying audiovisual content and video games for playing online.

  2. The VSC is a self-regulatory body whose affairs are overseen by a Committee and managed by a Director General and executive team.

  3. The main objective of the VSC in introducing the Code is to secure from registered members of the Code (`Members') a high degree of commitment to proper standards of conduct and to encourage observance of these standards in the supply of video entertainment products and video games for the benefit of the consumer. The Code is intended to complement legislation in force from time to time relating to all aspects of the video entertainment and video games industries. The Code will be reviewed and amended from time to time to take account of changing social conditions, legislation and public attitudes.

  4. The Code also seeks to complement other codes of practice which are already well established in the business community.

Administration of the code

  1. The Code has been approved by the Committee of the VSC. The Code will be reviewed, discussed and (where necessary) amended by the Committee upon a regular basis (or at least upon a 3 yearly basis).

  2. The members of the Committee may be replaced from time to time by election in accordance with the Articles of Association of the VSC.

  3. The Committee's responsibilities shall include the administration of the Code; the continuous review and, as necessary, amendment of the Code; the investigation of complaints made to the VSC by Members, members of the public and others; the resolution of disputes arising as a result of alleged breaches of the Code; the administration of the registration scheme for membership of the Code and other activities concerned with the promotion of high standards in the video entertainment and video games industries.

  4. The responsibilities of the Committee may be carried out by the Committee; individual members of the Committee; sub-committees of the Committee; the Director General of the VSC or others employed or engaged by the VSC.

Membership registration scheme

  1. All business concerns and individuals involved in the supply of video entertainment products and video games in the United Kingdom will be invited to apply for membership of the Code for an annual subscription prescribed by the Committee. Applications shall be made to the Director General of the VSC at the address given on the Form of Application provided.

  2. Subscription fees may differ according to the category of membership being applied for. Details of the various rates of subscription fees are available upon request from the Director General of the VSC.

  3. Members will be required to agree to abide by the Code. All applicants for membership will be required to complete an undertaking on the Form of Application to this effect.

Complaints & disputes procedure

  1. The Director General of the VSC will refer to the Complaints Board all complaints received by the VSC in regard to any alleged breach of the Code of Practice Rules ('Rules') which are considered to be of a serious nature. Such complaints will be received at no charge. The Complaints Board will consist of the Director General and four members of the Committee.

  2. Complaints must be made in writing to the Director General of the VSC and an indication must be given of which requirement of the Rules the complainant believes has been breached. The complainant may request that his/her identity remain anonymous. The Complaints Board may decide not to investigate or deal with a complaint which either is or may become the subject of legal proceedings.

  3. Subject to the above the Complaints Board will investigate all complaints received by it and will notify in writing the party against whom any complaint has been made as soon as practicable after such complaint is received by the Director General.

  4. The party against whom the complaint has been made will be given a proper opportunity to offer an explanation if so required either verbally or in writing.

  5. The Complaints Board may invite the attendance of the party against whom the complaint has been registered for examination before the Complaints Board. Prior to such examination the Complaints Board will, as appropriate, make available to such party all documents and other papers it has received from the complainant in relation to such complaint. The party will then have an opportunity to answer the complaint and make representations to the Complaints Board and may nominate a person or persons to make such representations to the Complaints Board on his/her behalf.

  6. After consideration of all the relevant factors the Complaints Board may:-

    • Consider the alleged breach of the Rules to be unfounded and advise the party against whom the allegation was made and the complainant to this effect.

    • Consider the alleged breach of the Rules to have actually taken place but to have been of such a nature as to merit no further action and advise the party against whom the allegation was made and the complainant to this effect.

    • Consider the alleged breach of the Rules to have actually taken place and give a formal written warning to the party against whom the allegation was made and notify the complainant of such formal written warning.

    • Consider the alleged breach of the Rules to have actually taken place and require the party against whom the allegation was made to give a written undertaking to the VSC to refrain from doing the act complained of.

    • Take such further action as the Complaints Board considers in all the circumstances to be necessary and appropriate.

  7. In the event that a Member fails to abide by the Rules or fails to take proper action as a result of being given a written warning by the VSC or fails to give or abide by a written undertaking requested by the VSC, the VSC shall take such action as it deems necessary including revoking the membership of the Member forthwith without a refund of the subscription fee.

  8. In the event that a Member is expelled from membership of the Code an appeal procedure is available whereby the President of the Law Society may nominate an individual to preside at a hearing at which the appealing party will have an opportunity to state his/her case. The decision of the individual nominated under this appeal procedure will be final and conclusive.

Advisory service

The VSC will give advice on the interpretation of all aspects of the Code and Rules. Written requests for advice should be addressed to the Director General of the VSC.

Code of Practice guidelines

To assist Members in the observance of the Code of Practice Rules the VSC has established these Guidelines to indicate to Members the business and trading practices they should follow in order to comply with the Rules and how the Rules will be interpreted in practice and by a Complaints Board.
 
The Guidelines are divided into sections with each section dealing with different types of Members. It is recognised that some Members may be required to comply with more than one of the sections.
 
Section 1
 
Members supplying to the trade and not supplying directly to the public
  1. Members must ensure that all video entertainment products or video games supplied comply with the law and in particular the Video Recordings Act 1984 (as amended) and are age rated by the relevant age rating authority unless any such video entertainment product or video game is exempt from any legally enforceable age rating process. 

  2. Members must ensure that the labels and packaging for all video entertainment products and video games supplied (other than those exempt from legal age rating) clearly show the correct age rating symbols and otherwise comply with the Video Recordings Act 1984 (as amended) and any associated legally enforceable Regulations. 

  3. Members must have all proper regard to the law relating to any video entertainment product or video game considered to be exempt from legal age rating and must clearly mark the packaging of any such video entertainment product or video game considered to be exempt with an unofficial 'E' or such other markings to indicate such exemption. 

  4. Members must promptly notify their customers where any problem or matter arises in regard to any video entertainment product or video game supplied by them which may expose their customers to criminal prosecution or civil liability to enable their customers to take action to avoid such exposure. 

  5. It is recommended that Members do not supply any promotional items for any video entertainment product or video games having an age rating higher than 12 for showing or playing in retail premises or other public places to which persons under the age of 15 have access. 

  6. Members must not supply their customers with posters, advertising or other display materials of an extremely violent, sexual or offensive nature for use in retail premise which may contravene the law or which otherwise do not comply with the rules and regulations specified by the Advertising Standards Authority. In cases of doubt Members will obtain the advice of the ASA prior to supplying any such materials.
Section 2
 
Members supplying to the public from retail shops
  1. Members must take all steps necessary to ensure that they or their staff do not supply video entertainment products or video games given an age-restricted age rating in accordance with the Video Recordings Act 1984 (as amended) to persons below the specified ages. 

  2. Members must only supply to their customers video entertainment products and video games which have been legally age rated in accordance with the Video Recordings Act 1984 (as amended) or which are exempt from legal age rating where the packaging is marked with an unofficial 'E' or such other markings to indicate such exemption. 

  3. Members must exercise caution in the use of any materials, including posters and displays, of a violent, sexual or possibly offensive nature in their retail premises having particular regard to the likelihood of such materials being seen by young persons. 

  4. Members must exercise caution when playing or demonstrating video entertainment products or video games which have been legally age rated above 12 in retail premises or other public places to which persons under the age of 15 have access. 

  5. Members will not play or demonstrate video entertainment products or video games having an age rating of 18 in retail premises unless persons under the age of 18 are excluded from such retail premises. 

  6. Members must prominently display details of the age rating symbols required by the Video Recordings Act 1984 (as amended) in their retail premises. 

  7. Members must ensure that their staff are fully trained (and receive regular reminder training) in accordance with the VSC Staff Training Guidelines before they are permitted to supply video entertainment products or video games to the public.
Section 3
 
Members supplying to the public other than from retail shops
 
For clarification purposes this section deals with supply to the public where there is no direct (face to face) contact with the public or customers, orders are placed by mail, telephone or online and physical products are despatched to the public or customers through the mail. It will also include digital supply by way of download, streaming or otherwise supplying video entertainment products and video games for playing online ('digital supply').
 
  1. Members must take all reasonable steps necessary to ensure that they do not supply physical or digital video entertainment products or video games) given an age-restricted age rating in accordance with the Video Recordings Act 1984 (as amended) to persons below the specified ages. 

  2. Members must take all reasonable steps to ensure that they do not supply or make available video entertainment products or video games by way of mail order or digital supply to persons below the specified age rating (given by a recognised age rating body) irrespective of whether such age ratings have been given in accordance with the Video Recordings Act 1984 (as amended). 

  3. Members must take all reasonable steps to ensure that whenever they supply or make available any video entertainment products or video game by way of mail order or digital supply that the applicable age rating is shown in advance to enable the consumer to make an informed decision as to whether they wish to be supplied with or play the video entertainment product or video game concerned. 

  4. Members must take reasonable steps to verify the age of any person attempting to purchase 18 rated video entertainment products or video games by way of mail order or digital supply, who is not using a credit card to purchase such items. As a minimum such purchasers must verify their age online and where practicable within the parameters of normal business practices retailers should verify the age of the purchaser either at the point of sale or point of delivery. 

  5. Members are recommended to consult with their local trading standards home authority to verify that the checking procedures put in place are sufficient to demonstrate all due diligence. Members must not in their consumer advertising or otherwise use materials of an extremely sexual or violent nature in such a manner as to cause offence to a reasonable person. 

  6. Members must in all consumer advertising clearly and understandably explain any commitment to be made by a customer, and all costs to be incurred by a customer, including postage and packaging, must be clearly stated. 

  7. Members must not use any consumer advertising which could tend to confuse the consumer as to the identity of the advertiser or which makes derogatory statements or criticisms in regard to any competing offer.

 

Section 4

Members who specialise in facilitating the playing of video games in mobile or static locations
  1. Members must ensure that any person playing any video game is not below the age rating of the video game concerned.

  2.  Where the video game being played is rated 12 or 16 members must excercise caution in regard to the ages of other persons permitted to enter the mobile or static location and view the game being played.

  3. Where the video game being played is rated 18 members must ensure that nobody under the age of 18 is permitted to enter the mobile or static location and view the game being played.

  4. Where it is possible for the general public or an invited audience to view a video game being played from outside the mobile or static location then members will ensure that no video game rated 18 is played in such circumstances unless the member can ensure that the general public or invited audience concerned are all over the age of 18.

  5.   Members must comply with all child protection legislation and procedures.

Code of Practice rules

  1. Members must at all times comply with all aspects of the law having particular regard to the provisions of the Video Recordings Act 1984 (as amended).

  2. Members must at all times refrain from trading in illegal or counterfeit product.

  3. Members will have a duty when dealing with their customers to trade legally, honestly, decently and truthfully.

  4. Members will have a duty to take all reasonable action to ensure that age restricted films and other audiovisual products, DVDs and video games are not supplied or offered for supply either as physical products or online to persons under the specified ages.

  5. Members will to the best of their ability comply with the Code of Practice Guidelines.

Staff training

Most retailers do endeavour to observe the law and the VSC provides its retailer members with a variety of in-store display items and these guidelines which have all been designed to assist the retailer to train staff and constantly remind staff and customers of the law relating video entertainment products and video games with particular reference to age-restricted titles.
 
Despite the very best efforts of the VSC and its retailer members mistakes can be made and prosecutions can result. Offences under the Video Recordings Act 1984 (as amended) used to be absolute offences under the law. It did not matter that all efforts had been made to comply with the law. Proof that an offence had been committed was all that was needed for a successful prosecution. The law did not distinguish between a retailer who had made an effort and a retailer who had not.
 
The law was changed in September 1993 and the defence of due diligence became available in prosecutions under the 1984 Act. In effect this defence means that the courts can recognise efforts made to comply with the law even though a mistake may have been made.
 
The due diligence defence means that it is a defence for a person charged with an offence to prove that all reasonable precautions were taken and all due diligence was exercised to avoid the commission of the offence by the person accused or a person under that person's control. This defence does not however reduce the effectiveness of the law and does not enable retailers to avoid their legal responsibilities. It is not a soft option.
 
The retailer must be able to demonstrate that positive action has been taken. Sitting back and doing nothing or the bare minimum will not suffice. All reasonable precautions must be taken to set up and operate a system of control which properly recognises all the risks involved.
 
Due diligence means what it says.
 
Local trading standards departments are the principal enforcement authority for the Act and after consultation with the trading standards authorities the VSC has established staff training guidelines which are designed to assist retailers. Compliance with the guidelines could prove to be an integral part of a legal defence in a prosecution where an unfortunate mistake has been made by a member of staff.
 
GUIDELINES
 
All staff must be made aware of the law relating to video entertainment products and video games with particular reference to age-restricted titles. It should be made very clear that the supply of an age-restricted title to a person below the specified age is a criminal offence and that breach of the law can result in the member of staff and/or the company being prosecuted.
 
All staff must receive proper instruction in regard to the law before they are permitted to serve on the counter or the checkout point where video entertainment products or video games are presented for purchase.
 
The instruction must be carried out either by a senior member of staff or via an appropriate method suitable for the training environment of the store concerned. The instruction may be part of an overall instruction procedure but care should be taken to ensure that the part of the instruction dealing with video entertainment products and video games and the law is distinct and prominent.
 
The instruction may be a separate document or may form part of an overall instruction manual or procedure but again care should be taken to ensure that the part of the instruction procedures dealing with video entertainment products and video games and the law is distinct and prominent.
 
It is recommended that after instruction has been given members of staff are required to complete a form of questionnaire or confirmation designed to ascertain that the instruction given has been properly understood.
 
Suitable written or electronic records of the staff instructed should be kept to prove that proper instruction has taken place.
 
The above requirements are to apply to all staff including temporary or part-time staff. Care should be taken to ensure that no staff are allowed to supply video entertainment products or video games without being properly instructed.
 
All staff should be assured that whenever they make a reasonable decision that a customer is, or could be, below a specified age and, as a result, refuse to supply an age-restricted video entertainment product or video game to such a person the decision will receive the full support of senior management.
 
REGULAR REMINDERS
 
All staff should be regularly reminded of the law relating to video entertainment products and video games and when such reminders are being carried out it should again be emphasised that the supply of age-restricted titles to a person below the specified age is a criminal offence and that breach of the law can result in the prosecution of the member of staff and/or the company. Regular reminders are important and should be given at such intervals as may be necessary to ensure that the matter remains uppermost in the minds of staff members. Failure to give regular reminders may prejudice your due diligence defence. It is important to keep a record of reminders given in order to prove that they have actually been given.
 
YOUNG MEMBERS OF STAFF
 
If members of staff under the age of 18 are permitted to supply video entertainment products or video games to customers then even greater care should be taken with the instruction and reminder system. It is strongly recommended that a safety procedure be implemented to emphasise to such staff that they should always refer to their manager/supervisor if they are in any doubt as to the age of a customer.
 
It is also strongly recommended that younger members of staff (under 18) are never left on their own to supply video entertainment products or video games to customers.
 
DISPLAYS
 
Details of the age rating symbols and their meanings should be prominently displayed in all retail outlets. Where video entertainment products and video games are supplied from stores which sell other products the details should be prominently displayed in the relevant section of the store. For stores which only supply video entertainment products and video games the details should be prominently displayed at the counter or check-out desk. A prominent notice should also be displayed at the counter or check-out desk to the effect that it is illegal to supply age-restricted video entertainment products or video game titles to any person below the specified age.
 
PROOF OF AGE
 
Unless it is very clear that a customer is over the age of 18 then at least one proof of age document should be asked for before such a customer is supplied. Retailers are strongly recommended to adopt a policy whereby if a customer appears to be under the age of 21 then proof of age will be asked for.
 
Retailers are advised to accept the following forms of identification:
  • UK Photo Driving License
  • Passport
  • Identification carrying the PASS (Proof of Age Standards Scheme) hologram.
If there is any doubt at all concerning the age of any customers then they should not be supplied with age-restricted titles.
 
BEHIND THE COUNTER
 
In some stores 'live' products are put on the shelves. In many other stores only the empty case or box is put on display and when the customer presents this to the member of staff the actual product itself must be selected from storage area behind the counter.
 
In such instances, where practicable within the store environment, a prominent notice should be displayed behind the counter or in the storage area reminding staff that age-restricted products must not be supplied to persons below the specified ages. The manner in which this notice is displayed may vary from store to store depending upon the method of storage or selection used.
 
The store may also choose to implement an electronic till prompt reminder to staff that products are age restricted.
 
REFUSALS LOG
 
It is recommended that a log is kept whenever a customer is refused an age-restricted product upon the basis that the customer is, or could be, below the specified age. Such a log should be regularly checked by a senior member of staff at such intervals as may be necessary to ensure that it is being used correctly and diligently by members of staff. The maintenance of such a log will be useful in demonstrating that due diligence has been exercised in the event of a threatened prosecution. The refusals log should also be used to identify members of staff who perhaps need more stringent training. Members of staff who never or infrequently refuse to supply a customer may not be taking the issue seriously enough.
 
RESPONSIBILITY
 
A senior member of staff at each store should be made directly responsible for ensuring that all procedures are properly carried out in regard to video entertainment products and video games and the law and that all required notices and displays are being used. A senior member of staff at each video store should be the initial contact with the local trading standards department and trading standards officers in respect of any matters concerning the Video Recordings Act 1984. In the absence of a specific appointee the manager of each video store shall have such responsibility.
 
ACTION POINTS
 
  • Check your existing systems and staff training procedures to ensure that they fall within the framework of the VSC guidelines. If they do not, change them without delay to ensure that they do.

  • Make sure that all managers and senior staff (particularly those having responsibility for staff training) are made fully aware of the VSC guidelines and the reasons for them.

  • Use the support and advice available through the trading standards service. Local Authority Trading Standards Departments are there to help you to comply with the law and contacting them can help to prevent problems occurring. They have considerable experience, both in enforcing video/games legislation and the operation of due diligence systems which will be of great value to video/games retailers.

  • Any retailer having stores throughout the country or in different local authority areas should establish who their home authority is. The home authority will most likely be that authority for the area in which your head office or administrative centre is based Discuss with your home authority how you intend to implement the VSC guidelines. Trading standards departments subscribe to the home authority principle which means that one authority takes the lead in advising a retailer. A retailer can accordingly approach one authority for advice rather than having to agree systems and procedures with every authority in whose area the retailer has a shop. If you experience any problems concerning your systems and procedures operated in a shop in any local authority area outside your home authority area then these problems can be referred to your home authority. Usually systems and procedures accepted by your home authority will be accepted by other local authorities.

  • Contact the VSC if you experience any difficulties or if any home authority requires systems and procedures which significantly exceed or differ from those required by these guidelines.

Contact VSC

Address:

Suite 4A
Salar House
61 Campfield Road
St Albans
Hertfordshire
AL1 5HT
UK

Phone:

+44(0)2037 718 543

Copyright © 2015 The Video Standards Council / All rights reserved.

Registered Office: Suite 4A, Salar House, 61 Campfield Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL1 5HT

The Video Standards Council is a Limited Company registered in the UK No. 2402805

VAT No. 505 5831 56

Telephone: 02037 718 543

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