Children and Young people
Traditionally the legal the legal age of adulthood was 21 but in the past 20-30 years most jurisdictions have lowered this age to 18. Article 1 of the Convention on the rights of the child (CROC) states that anyone under the age of 18 is child. Also the Children and young person’s (care and protection) Act 1998 (NSW) defines a ‘young person as someone aged between 16-18. These definitions are important because laws treat children and young people differently to adults. Before the late 19th century children committing criminal acts were treated in the same way as adult offenders. The concept of an age before which a person could not be held criminally responsible -doli incapax – did not exist, and children as young as seven were convicted of serious criminal offences. There were two significant events in the 1980s that advanced the rights of children and young people internationally and in common law countries. The two events were the signature of the United Nations Convention on the rights of child (CROC) and the Gillick case. The Convention on the rights of the child (1989) sets out a comprehensive set of rights for all children and young people. These rights cover civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Health Authority (1985) was a House of Lords decision. The department of health and Social Security has distributed a flyer advising doctors that they could lawfully provide contraception and advice to persons under 16 years old without parents’ consent. The mother of 5 daughters brought and action against the health authority and the DHSS based on her belief that a child under 16 was too young to make such decision without parental consent. The court of appeal allowed Mrs Gillick’s appeal and took the matter to the House of Lords with affirmed the appeal on the basis that 16 years old was capable of consent in medical matters provided that she has sufficient understanding and...
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