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Sony to be sued over Manhunt murder

The parents of murdered schoolboy Stefan Pakeerah have hired a Miami lawyer to sue Sony Computer Entertainment and the games company behind Manhunt, a game they blame for inciting the brutal attack that killed their 14-year-old son.02 Aug 2004

Stefan Pakeerah, from Leicester, was murdered when he visited a local park in February with a friend, Warren Le Blanc. Le Blanc, 17, admitted in court last week that he had beaten the younger boy to death with a claw hammer and stabbed him repeatedly with a knife.

According to Reuters, he told police, "I didn't intend to kill him at first, but when I saw the blood I just let go and hit more times," he told police.

Le Blanc was said to be obsessed with the PlayStation 2 game Manhunt, a "blood sport" game that awards points in proportion to the brutality of killings.

Stefan's father told Reuters, "Stefan's murder compares to how the game is set out, using weapons like hammers and knives. If games like this influence kids, they should be taken off the shelves."

Dixons and Game obliged, withdrawing Manhunt from their stores – although, according to The Times newspaper, both stores will be stocking the forthcoming Doom 3 which, like Manhunt, carries an 18-certificate, and is billed by its makers as "the most frightening" gaming experience ever created.

Video games that are particularly realistic, or feature sex or violence, must be classified by the British Board of Film Classification under the Video Recordings Act 1984. It is an offence to supply it to anyone below the age limit, punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 or up to six months in prison.

Edinburgh-based Rockstar Games, the game's developer, issued a statement extending its sympathies to the Pakeerah family, but adding:

"We reject any suggestion or association between the tragic events and the sale of Manhunt. There is a clear certification structure in place and Manhunt was clearly classified as 18 by the British Board of Film Classification and should not be in the possession of a juvenile. Rockstar Games submits every game for certification to the British Board of Film Certification and clearly marks the game with the BBFC-approved rating."

Notwithstanding, the Pakeerah family has hired Miami lawyer Jack Thompson, a crusader against violent entertainment. According to The Times, the lawsuit will seek £50 million for wrongful death.

The Times reports that Thompson sent a warning to Rockstar before the murder, warning it that Manhunt would incite copycat behaviour. He argues that Sony should share responsibility for allowing the game on its platform, which is played by children.

Thompson is already representing the family of a man shot by two boys who were supposedly emulating another violent game, Grand Theft Auto. That US action is against games company Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., the parent company of Rockstar.