Your rights and responsibilities under criminal law

There are special rules about the treatment of young people in criminal law.

You can’t be charged with a crime in England or Wales if you’re under 10 (or under 8 in Scotland), and if you’re between 10 and 17 you’ll be treated differently from adults in  the way that your case is heard and how you’re punished if you’re found guilty. You can find more on the UK Government website also explains your rights if you’re arrested.

The criminal law is designed to protect society as a whole. If you get into trouble with the criminal law when you’re young, it can make the rest of your life much harder. If you’re tempted to break the law because you don’t have enough money, or you’re unhappy, or you want to impress your friends – STOP. See if there is someone who can help you with whatever you’re going through – have a look at our pages on families or dealing with friends who are not really friends or risky behaviour or your mental health generally. If you’re in a gang, or under pressure from a gang, see this page from Childline.

You may feel that you’re alone, but there is always someone who can help. If you don’t know where else to turn, Childline is always a good place to start. It’s set up to help anyone under 19 in the UK with any problem, and you can contact its counsellors day or night.

You might also be interested in our other pages on your legal rights and responsibilities: