How old do I have to be to……….?

Childhood and the law

The law restricts children from doing certain things in a number of ways. This article looks at some of the restrictions that apply to children.

Marriage and Civil Partnerships

The Marriage Act 1949 provides that a marriage is void if either party is under the age of 16. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 provides that a civil partnership is also void where either party is under the age of 16.

A person under the age of 18 cannot get married in a registry office without the written consent of certain persons, including parents or the permission of the Court.

Wills

Under the Wills Act 1837, as amended, it is not possible for a person under the age of 18 years to make a valid will. There are exceptions to this (under the Wills (Soldiers and Sailors) Act 1918 as amended) for soldiers in actual military service and mariners or seaman at sea.

Vehicles and aircraft

Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 a person has to be 16 years old or over in order to hold or obtain a licence to drive an invalid carriage or a moped. A person has to be 17 years old or over in order to hold or obtain a licence to drive a motor bicycle, an agricultural or forestry tractor or a small vehicle and a person has to be 18 years old or over before he can hold or obtain a medium-sized goods vehicle.

The Air Navigation Order 2005 provides that a person under the age of 16 years may not act as a pilot in command of a glider. A person under the age of 16 years may not act as a pilot in command of an aircraft.

Purchasing certain products

Certain products can only legally be sold to a person of a certain age. These are known as “age restricted products”.

A person has to be 18 years old or over to buy alcohol, tobacco, knives, gas lighter refills, solvents, certain fireworks and DVD and video games carrying an “18” classification.

A person has to be 16 years old or over to buy lottery tickets, spray paints, liqueur chocolates and certain fireworks. A pet shop can only legally sell a pet to a person who is 16 years old or over.

A person has to be 15 years old or over to buy a DVD or video game carrying a “15” classification and 12 years old or over where the DVD or video game carries a “12” classification.

Contracts

Under the Minors’ Contracts Act 1987 persons under the age of 18 are only permitted to enter into contracts for limited purposes.

Contracts entered into by children that are for “necessaries” are generally binding on children, as are contracts for apprenticeship, employment, education and service where the contract is considered to be for the benefit of the child.

Contracts for necessaries will include contracts for the purchase of food, medicine and clothing.

Employment

There are restrictions as to how much work can be carried out by children and where they can work.

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