The latest Which? Magazine report confirms something that most of us already knew – kids are being sold 18-rated games on the high street, with a number of major games retailers openly flouting the law.

Which? Computing has caught three high street shops - Woolworths, Game and Maplin - red-handed, selling 18-rated games to a 15-year-old girl.

Undercover investigation

The investigation follows the earlier news that Trading Standards officers have been warning that 18-rated games are being sold illegally to teenagers through internet auction sites.

The 15-year-old in question bought Grand Theft Auto (GTA) – Vice City Stories from Woolworths, Hitman from Maplin and SEGA's Condemned 2 from GAME.

Moral and legal duty

Ash Shah, assistant head of Brent and Harrow Council trading standards, says of the investigation's findings: "Staff should realise that they have a moral and legal duty to stop these sales from taking place.

"There is a mixed but growing body of evidence that very violent games like this can sometimes influence under-age players with reports of anti social behaviour linked to them, in extreme cases even fatalities."

Jail and heavy fines

Under the Video Recordings Act, it's an offence to sell video games to persons who have not reached the age specified in the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) certificate clearly marked on the box. The maximum penalty for this offence is £5,000 and/or six months' jail.

The three stores in question "are investigating the findings and say that under-age sales are rare."

Hardly surprising

Sarah Kidner, Editor of Which? Computing says: "It's shocking and surprising that 18-rated games have been sold to a child as young as 15 by household names."

It's shocking enough, sure. But hardly surprising…