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What is the Age of Criminal Responsibility?

The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 10 years old. Only children aged 10 and above can be arrested or charged with a crime.

Children under 10 can be penalised in other ways, such as a Local Child Curfew or a Child Safety Order. Children under 10 who repeatedly break the law can be taken into care or can see their parents held responsible for their behaviour.

What is a Local Child Curfew?

This is a ban imposed by the police which prevents children from being in a public place between 9pm and 6am unless accompanied by an adult. It can last for up to 90 days. Breaking this curfew can result in a Child Safety Order.

What is a Child Safety Order?

This Order places your child under the supervision of a youth offending team. The Order usually lasts for up to 3 months but can last as long as 12 months.

Breaching the rules of this Order can result in a child being taken into care.

How are Children Aged 10 or Above Dealt With?

Children aged between 10 and 17 are treated differently to adults by the criminal justice system. They will be dealt with by youth courts, given different types of sentences and, if given a custodial sentence, will be sent to a special secure centre specificifically for young people.

A child aged between 10 and 17 would not be sent to an adult prison.

What About Young People?

Young people aged 18 are treated as adults by the law. If sentenced to a custodial sentence, a person aged between 18 and 25 would be sent to a specific prison unit for people of that age, not a full adult prison.

Does Every Country Have The Same Age of Criminal Responsibility?

No, not at all.

In fact, our age of criminal responsibility is one of the lowest and has been widely criticised.

Scotland has recently raised its own age of criminal responsibility to 12, which is still considered below the bare minimum by the United Nations.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission vocally criticises the UK for refusing to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years old.

The differences across countries is interesting, with Albania, Croatia, Estonia and several other countries having a minimum age of criminal responsibility of 14 years old. Countries like Azerbaijan and Armenia sees 14 year olds as criminally responsible for some crimes only, with full criminal responsibility for all offences only once a person reaches 16 years of age.

The Czech Republic, Denmark, Iceland and Finland have a minimum age of criminal responsibility of 15 years old.

Andorra and Belgium have a minimum age of criminal responsibility of 12 years old.

In Luxembourg, the general rule is that all people under 18 should be dealt with by the youth courts where the focus is on protection, care, therapy and education.


If you have a child who is facing a criminal case, call our understanding and friendly team of experts on 01623 397200


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You're in safe hands

Let us take the lead from here

01623 397 200
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