Sunderland Safeguarding Children Partnership

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Change Council & Know your rights

Change Council

For information regarding Change Council and other Youth Groups in Sunderland please visit the Together for Children website.

Know your rights +

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, a child is someone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. Once they turn 18, they are legally an adult.

There are also different laws across the UK that specify age limits for young people in different circumstances. These include leaving school; leaving care; the age of consent; and the age of criminal responsibility.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child


Age of Consent +

The age of consent (the legal age to have sex) in the UK is 16 years old.

The laws are there to protect children. They are not there to prosecute under-16s who have mutually consenting sexual activity but will be used if there is abuse or exploitation involved.

To help protect younger children the law says anyone under the age of 13 can never legally give consent. This means that anyone engaging in sexual activity with a child who is 12 or younger will be subject to penalties set out under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The law also gives extra protection to young people who are 16 to 17 years old. It is illegal to:

  • take, show or distribute indecent photographs
  • pay for or arrange sexual services
  • for a person in a position of trust (for example, teachers, care workers) to engage in sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18

The NSPCC provide further information - follow the link below. 


Age of criminal responsibility for children +

The age of criminal responsibility in England is 10 years old.

Criminal responsibility is based on when a child is considered capable of committing a crime and old enough to stand trial and be convicted of a criminal offence.

Childrens Wishes +

Most guidance for services for children, like safeguarding and health care, emphasises how important it is to listen to the wishes of the child.

However, authorities have a duty to act in the best interests of the child which may mean contradicting their wishes. Legislation in England and Wales asks that due consideration is given to the wishes and feelings of a child as far as reasonable before making decisions on what services to provide or action to take. 


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