LONDON (Reuters) - Retailers who sell children violent or pornographic videos will be immune from prosecution for the next three months after the discovery of a government blunder 25 years ago.
Britain should have notified the European Commission of the existence of the Video Recordings Act 1984 (VRA) -- which regulated the industry -- but failed to do so.
"Unfortunately, the discovery of this omission means that, a quarter of a century later, the VRA is no longer enforceable against individuals in United Kingdom courts," said Barbara Follett, Minister for Culture and Tourism.
Follett said people currently being prosecuted under the act would not be convicted until a new act can take legal effect in three months, the period required for consultation with other EU member states.
In the interim, people will be able to sell pornographic and violent videos to children under the age of 18 without fear of prosecution.
However anyone previously convicted for offences under the act will not be able to appeal their case.
The British Video Association said distributors would continue to submit their works to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and asked its members to comply with the provisions on a voluntary basis.
Britain's Entertainment Retailers Association, which represents more than 90 percent of the UK video market, said "This is extraordinary. For 25 years retailers have been faithfully administering the system and now this happens."
Editing by Steve Addison