back to article Government unbans dirty vids but bans 'legal highs'

Legislation introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, which banned the sale of unclassified videos and computer games, is not actually enforceable because the government of the day never told the European Commission. Accordingly the Crown Prosecution Service has been told to drop pending prosecutions against retailers accused …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I blame SKY and The Daily Mail for this.....

    Typical, let's find what everyone is doing and stop them doing it.

  2. Jon Double Nice

    "Professor David Nutt"

    Is one of the best names ever.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Banning Spice?

    Next they will ban CAKE....

  4. DavCrav


    If the law is unenforceable now, how can they claim that pervious convictions stand? The person appeals, citing fresh evidence that they were wrongly convicted under a law that didn't exist.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    "...and that they will remain compliant with the provisions of the VRA on a voluntary and best practice basis."

    Good luck with that.

  6. TheTick


    So we have to ask Europe to be able to enforce our own laws in our own courts?

  7. Anonymous Coward

    "previous convictions under the law will stand"

    Er, why?

    If I can't currently be convicted under it, surely all the previous convictions under it must also be bogus, as this law does not, and did not, apply.

  8. Jay Castle

    Yeah, right!

    The idea that they only just realised the law was illeagal is a crock. That they clearly want us to believe this is insulting - what are we supposed to base that trust on, exactly?

    And the fact that previous convictions wll stand? Disgusting. But not surprising.

    I'm all for having a classification system for films etc, I think it's a good idea that help prevent vulnerable people from encountering things that could badly affect them. But for the CPS\Government to willingly ursurp that system just invalidates it.

    It would almost be better if I actually thought they were the usless feckers they come across as - instead of the manipulating b@stards they clearly are.

  9. Clarissa

    Where the power really lies...

    25 years ago our elected government failed to notify a small, unelected group of people after passing a law and because they didn't do this said law is unenforceable.

    Does anyone still believe that the UK is a sovereign country with the right to pass its own laws without interference from others?

  10. Ben Rosenthal

    so street price on those

    just doubled, and supply will be slowed down not a jot. Well done government!

  11. Anonymous Coward

    So essentially...

    ... anything which makes you high is banned. I'm sure alcohol and oxygen are on their list.

  12. Red Bren
    Big Brother

    Only taking the advice that suits them

    "the Home Office has announced it will adopt recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to ban 'Spice' "

    Is this the same ACMD that the Home Office ignored when it recommended that cannabis remain declassified?

    It also strikes me a wrong when the government says that "previous convictions under the [illegal] law will stand." No apology for Turing then.

  13. Graham Marsden

    Minister Barbara Follett has written to trade bodies...

    ... asking them to accept voluntary guidelines until the relevant legislation is passed.

    Now what would be *sensible* would be for them to cut out a lot of the nonsense in the VRA which, for instance, means it's an offence for someone to sell R18 videos from a website in this country, but leaves it perfectly legal to purchase them from anywhere in Europe and have them shipped over here.

    Of course what will no doubt actually happen instead is that our prudish Nanny State Government will hamstring the adult industry with a whole lot more useless regulations to "protect" us from all that nasty dirty stuff...

  14. Nathan 13

    Lets just ban everything thats remotely fun

    and make working 7 days a week 12 hours a day mandatory.

    And if they can find a way to charge for air as well then Nu Labour might finally be happy.

  15. King Edward I



  16. Jim Morrow
    IT Angle

    Where have all the Daily Heil readers come from?

    WTF? Some of the comment here are the usual idiotic little englander rants about the EU. Did I miss the meeting when El Reg became a portal to the BNP's/Daily Hate's (same thing really) web site?

    The problem here is yet another fuck-up by the BRITISH government and the Home Office in particular. No surprises there....

    Clarissa - good Daily Heil name that! - makes the usual nonsensical claims about loss of sovereignty. And as usual these little englander rants don't stand up to a microsecond of actual thought or reason. Fact: the UK government passed a law "without interference from others", just as it always has done. Fact: those responsible for that law did not properly check for overlaps or contradictions with existing laws. This is supposed to happen when any new legislation is introduced. So this DOMESTIC fuck-up cannot be blamed on Brussels. Except in the fantasy world of little englanders who believe everything they read in the Daily Heil.

  17. Peter2 Silver badge


    Actually, I think that 25 years ago the EU was a little trading group which had absolutely no say on our internal affairs.

    Now, it's passing 80% of our laws and it's latest command seems to be that our classification body (BBFC) must be replaced by their European one (PEGI).

    What is scary is that we are further dismantling our national structures and handing control over to the EU in yet another area. By my understanding, this means that Brussels now control the exclusive censor for the UK. They classify films and games and can censor what goes on sale and we can't. Lovely.

    And Europe is a trading body, not a supernational superstate in construction. Honest.

  18. Greg J Preece

    You cannot ban the spice

    The spice is life.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    The Narcs

    Let's all go down to the sea again, or rather over 30m under it and breath air, Nitrogen Narcosis is a legal high that will not kill you (directly). The idea of banning things that give people a 'high' when they have killed a few could logically be extended to diving, both scuba and sky (but not muff) and all other extremes sports that are willingly undertaken and the risks understood. Maybe it is the risk that needs to be communicated not prohibition.

    Beer, because If its taxed it can't be wrong.

  20. M7S

    @AC 09:47

    You might just be more right about that one than you currently know....

    Oxygen (as a medical gas) is technically a "Prescription Only Medicine" (POM), not even "pharmacy sale" (over the counter).

    There will no doubt be some contradiction about this, with valid points, but given that the masks and nasal cannulae that we use to administer oxygen then dilute this from a nominal 100% to various percentages ranging down to about 24%, not much more than normal air, it does make you think that if we all stop using those nasty polluting combusion engines (any type) and air quality actually improves (in terms of oxygen concentration, if nature allows this), that we might all have to queue at the GP for a license to breathe.

    Ridiculous? - Remember this:

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Extreme Porn Law?

    How does this affect the extreme porn law (sections 63 to 68 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008)?

    Did the government have to inform the European Commission of that law as well? And did they?

    Section 64, "Exclusion of classified films etc.", looks like it might possibly be affected.

    Paris, because of her video recording acts.

  22. Martin 19

    @ Jim Morrow

    Yes, any negative comment about the EU (or any aspect of it) can be immediately dismissed as the frothy rantings of someone who can be ignored because they read a newspaper that you don't approve of.


    Nice Ad hominem there, mate.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Enforceability and Past Convictions

    It does seem odd that past convictions under an unenforceable law would still stand. How might this work?

    I'm not a lawyer, and I'm only speculating, but it might be something like this. The Act itself may well be enforceable in the UK, a sovereign nation. But such enforcement might put or keep the UK in breach of European Union rules, some treaty or other, or something like that.

    It would be a little bit like being a member of a vegetarian club. One of the rules is that thou shalt not eat meat. But you've got a freezer full of steaks, and you've been eating them for years. Your buying, owning and eating of steaks is perfectly legal under the law of the land, but in breach of club rules. The club can enforce its rules only to the extent that is lawful. They can impose a club fine, and perhaps could enforce that fine by making a civil claim though the courts. The club could also terminate your membership. But the club can't actually force you to stop buying, owning and eating meat. Because you want to remain a member of that club, you decide, on realising your mistake, to abstain from eating any more of your steaks.

    I suspect this is how it works with the EU. The Video Recordings Act 1984 may well be enforceable here in the UK, but such enforcement would put the UK in material breach of its EU obligations. That leaves existing convictions still standing, but means there won't be any more prosecutions, at least for the time being.

    Then again, maybe I'm talking utter rubbish. I just don't know.

  24. Alan 6


    I spent half my life between 1985 & 1988 putting new age certificate stickers on videos and cases all for nothing...

    Thatcher, I want those hours back!

  25. Anonymous Coward

    @Jim Morrow

    Spot on, just like the arseholes that say "oh Europe has forced us to have such and such stupid law"

    The VAST majority of laws passed by Europe already exist in the UK and it's a case of tyding them up and matching.

    look at it this way.

    If you had a rape law in the UK, but the EU said, all countries must have a Rape law, it would then become mandatory in the UK as well. Not another "crazy" Eu law, but just blanket coverage, so should your wife / gf / sister / mom go to another country and get attacked they can't go "oh sorry we can't do anything, we don't have that law about that here"

    This is an extreme example, but for more boring ones, how about, aming to make sure babys cots are safe for sale across the whole of Europe, so if you buy one in France, you know your kid isn't going to die by getting it's head stuck.

    It's called consistancy.

  26. Dayjo
    Thumb Up

    @King Edward

    Haha, I watched Dune for the first time the other night... and yes I was stoned. :)

  27. Cameron Colley

    @Jim Morrow

    Do you know more about this than is in the article?

    The phrase "...because the government of the day never told the European Commission." reads to me as "the government have to tell the European commission about laws passed in certain areas or they don't stand".

    I'm actually intrigued how it can be read any other way? What does that phrase mean?

    Oh, and lumping together BNP supporters with those of us who believe in a state with complete control over its own laws just sounds ignorant and as knee jerk as the Daily Fail readers you (an I, actually) hate so much.

  28. peter 3

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse

    2 years for posession of GBL, like acetone free nail polish?

    The net is going to cast very wide to include the bulk chemicals used to produce synthetic drugs like Spice, as they will start altering them to avoid whatever the new law lists as illegal.

    Esepcially if like GBL they can find something that metabolises into something else, or where the user performs some final process like mixing with alcohol or some common drugs from the chemist.

    It may just create a new art of drug making that results in something far worse or addictive, like glue sniffing.

  29. Alex 32

    House Atreides

    He who controls the spice controls the universe!

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    Yes, anything that makes you high is banned. That's what the war on drugs is about. Doesn't actually matter what the harm potential is any more, if it ever did. I'm not sure if we have one over here, but in the us there is an analogs act that states that anything with similar effects to a banned substance is subject to exactly the same laws and penalties as the substance itself. Doesn't matter whether it's harmful, addictive, whatever. The fact that it changes your mental state in the same way as something else that has attracted their ire in the past is enough.

    If the UK government actually took the advice of its own panels and reports on this subject we'd have legalised cannabis and ecstasy and banned tobacco by now. But they don't because there's political capital in it.

    A large proportion of the populace is sold on the "drugs=bad" message that has been peddled for so long. They also can't separate the effects of prohibition (drug contamination, gangs, violence) from the effects of the substances which vary wildly by which drug we're looking at.

    So much so that any tolerance of "drugs" by higher-up politicians is seen as a weakness. Any politician that actually encouraged a common-sense, evidence-based policy will be shouted down as someone who would harm the children, is morally corrupt, not tough enough on "crime" etc.

    Now, I wouldn't be at all surprised if a lot of the legal highs are actually pretty damaging and not very good and should be restricted anyway. This is because the stuff that actually works and isn't all that dangerous becomes popular and then gets banned. So we're left with people who want to try things out either becoming criminals or using whatever nasties haven't hit the UK (or US) gov radar yet.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    GBL = Easy

    GBL is easy to make anyway. No science required.

  32. Phu

    Slice of Irony, Sir?

    "Legislation ... is not actually enforceable because the government of the day never told the European Commission."

    This is fantastic. A UK law is being dismissed as unenforcable on the grounds of not being cleared with the EU, whereas the EU itself it not enforcable on the ground of not being referred to the population to vote on a constitutional law change (Transfer of power to foreign entity forbidden by Treason Felony Act 1848, Bill of Rights Act 1689).

    I love the irony. Our government is illegal left right and centre, and is still trying to work out how its arse differs from its elbow.

    -- Richard

  33. CD001


    In the face of countries like the US and China and not to mention the collective fail that is our current political state - I'd gladly dissolve the whole lot and become a subject nation of a United Europe.

  34. Chris Hunt

    @AC 10:57

    That club needs to have a dialogue with its steakholders.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    What a surprise (not!)

    TheTick Posted on Tuesday 25th August 2009 at 09:23 GMT

    "So we have to ask Europe to be able to enforce our own laws in our own courts?"

    Yep! It all depends on which areas the EU have declared themselves "competent". For those areas, no EU province (formerly known as Member States) may pass any law, except they get permission from the EU.

    As others have written (see for example) the EU is just hollowing out our national institutions, with the willing connivance of the government of the day (either colour). Welcome to the nation called Europe.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Phu (or is it Richard?)

    I think you've just found out how to put anyone involved with politics in the Tower of London for the remainder of their lives.


  37. David Jackson 1

    EU issues

    Why should the UK (or France, or Germany, or Poland or.....etc) have to notify the EU commission of laws which are absolutely no business of anyone outside that country? Consistency? Why do we need consistency? It often makes sense, but deciding whether it does or not is a matter for the UK (or France, or Germany, or Poland or.....etc) .

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This is absolutely, 100% not true. Games have been subject to two ratings systems in the UK for years; the industry's own Europe-wide ratings - formerly overseen by ELSPA, now PEGI, which is independent and nothing to do with EU government - and the BBFC. BBFC ratings were given only to certain games under certain conditions. The decision to adopt PEGI as the sole legally enforceable rating system for games (BBFC ratings will remain in place for films) was taken by the UK government alone, NOT by the EU, because they felt the twin ratings system was confusing and unnecessary when this kind of thing really should be as clear as possible. And, by the way, PEGI has no power to refuse classification and effectively ban any game, unlike the BBFC.

  39. Blue eyed boy

    @M7S re @AC 09:47

    The long-term future of our atmosphere is to become more oxygen-rich. The oxygen is coming from photodecomposition of water vapour in the upper atmosphere (i.e. those nasty UV rays from the sun are being absorbed by the water to break it up into hydrogen and oxygen). The hydrogen is lost into space because earth's gravity isn't strong enough to hold it, but the oxygen remains with us.

    A similar job on the ammonia in primitive earth's atmosphere has run to completion. There is now virtually no ammonia in the atmosphere, it was decomposed long ago into nitrogen (which is still with us) and hydrogen (lost into space). Since water is a tougher molecule to decompose than ammonia, the decomposition of the water hasn't gone so far. There's still plenty of water around and only one-fifth of our atmosphere consists of oxygen. Watch this space.....

  40. John 104

    Glad I live in the USA

    Our legal system isn't perfect, but at least we don't let a bunch of tossers bully us around and make us remove our own laws from our books. The whole EU thing cracks me up though. Soverign nations are just that. the idea of the EU is to take that away from individual countries and make for one big happy europe that will stop fighting itself. Good luck..

    Pirate, because thats what the UK will be called if they step away from this nonsense.

  41. Hugh McIntyre

    Re: EU issues

    I'm guessing this is because of a "Single Market" thing, if true. I.e., countries in the EU are supposed to allow free cross-border trading, and any restrictions (such as this) are subject to some review to make sure that countries don't sign up for free trade but then put in place various sneaky extra rules to make it harder for companies in other countries to sell stuff into the UK.

    Such tricky rules may be dressed up as "safety inspections" or extra labeling requirements or other things that seem reasonable on their own, but make trading harder by making each country's requirements different. So it's not unreasonable that the UK government may have agreed to notify the EC about such rules just as the UK probably wants to prevent other countries in the UK adopting spurious rules against UK imports, as part of one of the EU free trade treaties. The EC would then be responsible for deciding which rules are reasonable or not.

    Just a guess ...

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Stop being an idiot for once and read about what PEGI actually means for us gamers.

  43. Graham Marsden

    Regarding previous convictions...

    Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights says that no person may be punished for an act that was not a criminal offence at the time of its commission.

    So the Government claims that previous convictions will stand sounds like BS to me.

  44. MrPatrick

    @John 104

    Really, a federalist Europe consisting of individual member 'states' really seems that ridiculous to you, as an american, living in exactly the same system?

  45. lyngvi

    we don't have a bunch of tossers...?

    John, you already have at least a city/county government, a state government, *and* the federal government making laws for you. There are also many, many times where the federal government itself could accurately be described as a "bunch of tossers bullying us around and making us remove our own laws from our books". See the California cannabis battle if you need a good example.

    I'm not sure if we have more or less legislating bodies over us than any given citizen in England, but the idea that here in the states can write our own laws with impunity is absurd.

    - another US citizen.

  46. Jaggies

    Fnar, Fnar

    @ DavCrav


    Best. Typo. Ever...

    Beer - because i want one

  47. _wtf_

    Glad to be in the USA???

    John, your individual states used to have sovereignty too once. But you are somewhat further down the process of the Federal government doing a power grab and taking control of issues that should be handled at the state level. They have already taken over education, looks like they are now taking over health care. It is a pity because I think a properly run federal system has great possibilities for large nations with diverse populations, however the tendency seems to be for power to gravitate into central hands. So Europe is only following down a path that the USA has already trodden.

  48. Ascylto
    Black Helicopters

    Babs Folly said ...

    "...and that they will remain compliant with the provisions of the VRA on a voluntary and best practice basis."

    That's like having a voluntary Code of Practice for MPs expenses.

    Fat chance!

  49. M Gale
    Thumb Up


    Albeit without a civil war to make it so, ironically enough.

    Personally I'd be all for a more.. err.. confederated approach. A Europe of individual member states rather than a United States of Europe. It's bad enough that you have one bunch of bastards in Westminster deciding how 60m people are supposed to live (and cocking it up while they are at it), but having one bunch of bastards in Brussels or Paris or wherever deciding how 580m people live? And we don't even get to vote them out?

    Nice one! Thumbs up! Etc.

  50. Mark .

    Adults having fun? Obviously this must be banned

    "The Video Recordings Act introduced penalties for retailers caught selling violent material to children, and restricted sales of some films to licensed sex shops."

    And also banned the sale of unclassified films or games to adults full stop. Even just a few days ago, was the case of Grotesque.

    And whilst banned films may be rare, far more common is that cuts are required to many films, even those aimed at adults, in order to receive a classification. From :

    "in 2007 [the BBFC] cut a staggering 206 of the 950 DVDs which it passed at "18" and 314 of the 1,159 which it passed at "R18". ... the vast majority of cuts which the BBFC makes to films and DVDs are not in the categories aimed at children and young people but in those meant solely for adult audiences."

    MP Barbara Follett urged that the information about this law be suppressed: (censorship about a censorship law!)

    As for drugs - yes, heaven forbid people find a legal way to have fun (oh, except alcohol of course, it's fine to get completely violently shit-faced on booze on a Saturday night). I note that the Government loves to "adopt recommendations" when they agree with what it wants. Why doesn't it adopt the advice of Science Select Committee to classify drugs according to the harm they cause? ( )

    "By my understanding, this means that Brussels now control the exclusive censor for the UK. They classify films and games and can censor what goes on sale and we can't."

    Okay - so how many films does Brussels ban or cut, compared with the BBFC?

    "Why should the UK (or France, or Germany, or Poland or.....etc) have to notify the EU commission of laws which are absolutely no business of anyone outside that country?"

    Because it affects free trade - the VRA allows films to be banned even though they may be legal elsewhere in the EU (because they don't share our love of censorship).

    "Our legal system isn't perfect, but at least we don't let a bunch of tossers bully us around and make us remove our own laws from our books."

    Because it's much better to let a bunch of unelected tossers decide what you're allowed to watch? And yes, you do have situations where say, the Supreme Court can overturn laws. And this is a good thing.

  51. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Clarification.

    BZP and other piperazines are crap, they were originally designed as animal worming agents and I personally wouldn't take them.

    GBL is a bit of a pity to lose. Buy it now, buy bulk.

    Spice is a mixture of things, did they ban the product or the chemical (JWH-18)?

  52. Harry Tuttle

    If evolution is made illegal ...

    ... only criminals will evolve.

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