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Children & Child Custody

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6 minutes reading time (1237 words)



If you are looking for expert advice from a lawyer specialising in Child Law Advice 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 and knowledge in this sensitive area of the law, we are well placed to help you with any queries you may have and can swiftly and professionally help you to navigate through all the legal processes you may be currently experiencing.

Throughout the UK there are many different laws designed to protect children’s rights and to keep them safe. They mainly cover:
Ensuring all children have access to education.
Ensuring all children have a safe home environment.
Making sure each and every child’s voice can be heard.
Providing support for any child who has to leave the family home i.e. to enter local authority care.

What is the definition of a child?
In England and Wales the legal definition of a child is 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, such as 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 still legally qualify as 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.
If a child is in the care of the local authority, 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, no exceptions. This law is in place to primarily protect children from being exploited or abused by adults, rather than to prosecute under 16 year olds who participate in mutually consensual sex.  That being said ALL underage sexual activity should be viewed as a possible signal of child sexual exploitation and should be investigated.

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 13 years old or younger is breaking the law and this will always result in a child protection referral. 

There are also further laws in place to protect young persons who are over the age of consent, but who are still under 18 years of age, for instance it is illegal to:
To organise, or arrange to pay for any kind of sexual services from a child
To photograph, show or otherwise distribute indecent and/or intimate photos of a child
To enter into any kind of ‘sexting’ style communications with a child – (where texting or social media is used as a tool of communication and becomes sexual in its content.)
Or for a person of trust (i.e. carers, teachers, social workers etc.) to enter into any kind of sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18 years of age, who is under the care of their organisation.

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.  The Sexual Offences Act 2003 applies in both England and Wales and gives much more information pertaining to specific offences and the related penalties. 

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 fully accountable when committing a crime and are considered as old enough to understand their actions and able to 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 having previously been in care, you are no longer legally “looked after” by your Local Authority Children’s Services.  It is not a requirement to leave care when you are 16, you are able to stay until you are 18, unless you personally 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 either the age of 21, or until 25 if you remain in full time education or have a disability.  It is your local authority’s responsibility to ensure that once you are ready to leave the care system you have a safe place to stay and they will make sure all your housing options are discussed with you.  They are responsible financially for you until you reach 18 years of age.  Once you reach 18 years old, if you are not employed or in full time education, you will be eligible for certain benefits.  If you have any child law Guildford queries surrounding this are of law please feel free to contact us.

What age can a child leave school?
In England and Wales a child is able to leave full-time education on the last Friday in June, as long as they’ve either celebrated, or will celebrate, their 16th birthdays by the end of the school holidays. They then have a choice of three things they must do until they reach 18 years old:
Remain in full-time education, by attending college or a further education centre
Be on an apprenticeship course or a traineeship
Or to be spending a minimum of 20 hours a week either volunteering or working – whilst also in either part-time education or a recognised training programme.

For any help within this extensive area of child law advice Guildford, please feel free to contact us with any questions and queries 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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