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In English law a minor is any person under the age of 18. On the whole, the legal rights and obligations of minors are the same for minors as for adults. The following are some of the important differences.

  • Minors cannot vote in elections.
  • A child under 10 years of age has no liability under criminal law.
  • No person under 17 years of age can be sent to prison, although there are custodial alternative.
  • In many cases a minor cannot be held to be in breach of contract (see: Contract).
  • A minor cannot own land.
  • In civil cases involving minors, a responsible adult must be appointed as guardian ad litem (see: Guardian ad litem).
  • A minor cannot make a valid will (see: Who can make awill?)
  • A minor cannot hold property from the estate of a deceased person, and will generally become the Beneficial owner of a Trust in such circumstances.
  • There are restrictions on the right to operate motor vehicles.
  • On the whole minors may not consume alchohol on licensed premises.
  • A person of 16-17 years of age may marry, but there are some restrictions
     (see: Marriage).

A minor is liable for damages under tort, but the injured party can usually not obtain satisfaction as the child won't be able to pay the damages even if awarded. The liability for damages does not usually devolve to the child's parents.

There was, at one time, a special category of 10-14 year olds in criminal liability, but the distinction between this group and the 14-17 year group is rarely applied now.