Age of criminal responsibility

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

This means that children under 10 cannot be arrested or charged with a crime. There are other punishments that can be given to children under 10 who break the law

Children over 10

Children between 10 and 17 can be arrested and taken to court if they commit a crime. 

They are treated differently from adults and are: 

  • dealt with by youth courts 

  • given different sentences 

  • sent to special secure centres for young people, not adult prisons  

Young people aged 18

Young people aged 18 are treated as an adult by the law. 

If they are sent to prison, they will be sent to a place that holds 18 to 25-year-olds, not a full adult prison. 

For further information on the age of criminal responsibility can be found on GOV.UK's website.