Although most of us know that 18 is the age at which a young person reaches the age of majority in the UK and becomes an adult in the eyes of the law there are other significant age milestones before then, which are less well known and can cause confusion. It’s a subject that often crops up in training and support groups so that I thought the following might be useful.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland a child can be held criminally responsible for a crime and be tried in a court of law. In Scotland the age of criminal responsibility is eight years old but the age at which a child can be prosecuted is 12 years. Children under 12 may be referred to a social worker and a children's hearing.
Can open a current account with parental permission. You can open a savings account from the age of seven with some banks.
The NSPCC says: children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time. However this is a guideline not a law.
Can get a part-time job (although difficult without National Insurance number).
Can go to a pub but can't buy or drink alcohol.
The young person is allocated a National Insurance number.
- Drink wine, beer or cider with a meal in a restaurant.
- Legally have consensual sex.
- Get married with parent’s permission. In Scotland they can marry without parent’s permission.
- Get a licence to drive a moped.
- Claim benefits in some circumstances.
- Open a bank account without parent’s permission.
- Get a full-time job.
- The NSPCC recommends 16 as the minimum age for babysitting.
- Join the Army with parent’s consent.
They can apply for a driving licence to drive a car.
Legal age of majority. They can vote, buy tobacco and cigarettes, hold a credit card and a loan, and have a tattoo.
There is no legal age for most body piercings, but performing genital or nipple piercing on someone under the age of 16 could be considered a sexual abuse and therefore an offence. Some local authorities and piercing businesses have their own regulations.
Cathy x (www.cathyglass.co.uk)