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Children & Child Custody

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5 minutes reading time (935 words)

A child's legal rights

A child's legal rights

When it comes to Child Law Advice in Guildford and the rights of your children, then Gregorian Emerson Family Law Solicitors should be your first point of call. With many years of experience in this delicate area, we are well placed to help you with any queries you may have and can guide you through all legal processes you may be going through.

In England and Wales a child is legally classed as someone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. Once they reach their 18th birthday they will be legally classed as an adult and will be treated as such in all matters of law, unless there are extenuating circumstances like mental illness. There are many different laws pertaining to child ages in law, such as the age of consent, leaving care, or criminal responsibility and we will look at these further below.

What is the definition of a child within child protection legislation?
In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland they each have their own set of rules for legislation and guidance to keep children safe. In England these are listed below:

If the child is aged 16 and over
If they live independently
If they are in further education
If they are a member of the armed services
If they are in hospital, or in the custody in secure estate

All the above mean they are still legally children and are therefore to be provided with the same protection and entitlements as any other child in the same situation.  Any child law advice Guildford queries you have, we are here to help.

When a child is in the care system, whether in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, they are still entitled to support from their local authority until they reach at least 21 years of age, see below for further details.

What is the age of consent (the legal age to have sex in the UK)?
The legal age for consent in the UK is 16 years of age. This law is in place to primarily protect children from being exploited or abused, rather than to prosecute under 16's who participate in consensual sex. That being said ALL underage sexual activity should be viewed as a possible signal of child sexual exploitation. In law, to protect younger children, from any such exploitation, the law states that anyone under the age of 13 cannot legally give consent to have sex. The law is very clear on this and it means that ANYONE who engages in any kind of sexual activity with a child aged 12 years or younger is breaking the law and should always result in a child protection referral. 

There are also laws in place to protect young persons who are over the age of consent, but still under 18 years of age. It is illegal to:
Take, show or distribute indecent photos of a child (this also includes sexting)
To arrange, or to pay for any sexual services from a child
Or for a person of trust (i.e. carers, teachers, social workers etc) to engage in any kind of sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18 years of age who is in the care of their organisation.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 applies in both England and Wales and gives much more information
pertaining to specific offences and the related penalties. The law is very stringent when it comes to children and their rights as a young person within the age of consent and the penalties can be high.

What is the age of criminal responsibility for children?
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the age for criminal responsibility is 10 years of age. This means that at 10 years old they are considered accountable when committing a crime and are old enough to understand their actions and stand trial. Their case will be heard in a special youth court and, if convicted, their sentence will take into consideration their age. Children under 10 years of age cannot be arrested or charged with a crime, but there are other punishments available to them, such as local curfews etc.

What age can a child leave care?
A child will remain in the care system until they are between 16 and 18 years of age, depending on their own personal circumstances. Leaving care basically means that you are between 16 and 18 years of age and have previously been in care, but are no longer legally “looked after” by your Local Authority Children’s Services. You don’t have to leave care when you are 16, you can stay until you are 18, unless you feel ready to be a little more independent. You can request a 'staying put' arrangement if you are in foster care and wish to remain there after your 18th birthday. Child services will still have a duty to support you until you reach the age of 21, or 25 if you remain in full time education or have a disability. Your local authority will make sure that when you do leave the care system you have somewhere to go and that it is safe for you too. Until you are 18 years of age Child Services will support you financially. Once you reach 18, if you are not in employment or full time education then you can claim benefits.

For all your Child Law Advice Guildford questions and queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us and we will help you through your unique situation.  

Call us today on 01483 826470 and let us help you through the process. 

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