The Law

Some FAQs about the law & young people

A. If a police officer stops you in the street, they must tell you their name, the station where they are based and why they have stopped you. They might just have stopped because you look like someone they are looking for, such as a young person who is missing from home. However, they might have stopped you because they suspect that you have done something illegal or that you might be about to break the law. You must give your name and address, but you don't have to answer any legal questions until you have had legal advice. If they suspect you are carrying an offensive weapon, drugs or anything else with which you could commit a crime, the officer can search your outer clothing, even in a public place. Always try to stay calm because if you get abusive or angry it will only increase your chances of getting arrested. You have the right to be treated fairly and with respect by the police.
A. Yes, if you are 16 or under. If they can’t be contacted then another person, nominated as a ‘responsible adult’, will be asked to come in and sit with you while you are interviewed. If you are 17 or above, your parents do not have to be told.
A. You can be kept in a cell at a police station for up to 24 hours. While you are there you will be interviewed, but if the police are not finished with the investigation, they can then apply to the senior police officer in the area to have the time extended to 36 hours. This might be because they need extra time to interview other people such as witnesses or victims. After that, the police have to get permission from a magistrate to keep you in the cell for another 12 hours. These rules are different for anyone suspected of a terrorist offence.
A. You have full criminal responsibility for your actions at the age of 10. If you are convicted of an offence, there is a variety of community sentences that can be imposed on you, including recieving a reprimand or a final warning see section on Youth Offending for more details 
A. Basically, yes. In America, and some other countries, you have to tell them if you have ever been arrested when you apply for a visa. Even if you were arrested ages ago for something that is now spent (which no longer has to be declared on some forms), you have to tell them. If your arrest resulted in a conviction you may never be able to receive a visa.
A. Not usually, but it might depend on what you’re doing. For example, there might be a Dispersal Order (see section on Anti Social Behaviour for more details) in place in the area you are and then, if you are asked by the police to move and you don’t, that would be against the law. Otherwise it is not against the law unless you are committing a criminal offence or causing a nuisance. That could include intimidating other people through your language or your behaviour.
A. Yes they can, and they will also pour away any open cans or bottles and confiscate any that are unopened. They will also be interested in how you obtained the alcohol in the first place. If you ask an older friend or brother or sister (or anyone else, for that matter) to buy it for you, they will be committing an offence if they do.
A. Section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act says that a Police Officer in uniform may direct any person to leave an area if they have reasonable grounds to believe that their presence is likely to cause or contribute to the occurrence, repetition or continuance of alcohol related crime and disorder and it is necessary to remove them to prevent this.

If you fail to comply with an order to disperse under this legislation, or return within the time indicated, you are liable to prosecution or arrest.

A. You can actually enter a pub under the age of 16, but you must be with an adult (someone over 18). It is against the law for the person serving to sell you an alcoholic drink and they can be fined if they do. At the age of 16, you are allowed to drink specific alcoholic drinks (beer, cider or wine) but only when served with a table meal and providing you are accompanied by an adult and that they actually purchase the drink. You are only allowed to buy alcohol at a bar, pub or off licence if you are over 18 years old. You will need photo ID if you look under 21.
A. Yes, they are, even though many people think of it as not really being a crime because nobody actually gets hurt. The sellers of pirate DVDs often have links with more serious crimes, like people trafficking, exploitation of children &  young people, and drug dealing.

Buying pirate DVDs from car boot sales, street traders, or through online auction sites, helps to fund these crimes in your local community. If you do buy a pirate DVD and it is faulty or poor quality you will not get your money back. Statistics show that young people aged between 15 and 21 buy more pirate DVDs than any other age group.


A. You have to be 16 years old and the moped must have an engine capacity that does not exceed 50cc and a maximum design speed of 50 kilometres per hour (approximately 31 miles per hour). Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) must be completed before a learner moped or motorcycle rider is allowed to ride on the road with L-plates. Remember also, your moped will need to be taxed, MOT tested and insured, and you will need to wear a crash helmet, before you can take it on the road.
A. It depends on the size and type of engine, but, as a general rule, these can only be ridden by young people on private property, not on the road or pavement. To be ridden on the road or pavement you need to have a driving licence, tax and insurance and you can’t get any of these unless you are 16.


A. No, but only under certain, strict circumstances:
  • You must be 18 years old or over and be a member of a soft-air club to buy and possess a realistic BB gun.
  • If you are not a member of a soft-air club, but still over 18 years old, you can only purchase a non-realistic BB gun, which will be manufactured in an obscure colour (pink, yellow, etc.).
  • If you are under 18 years old, you can only possess a BB gun on private land.

BB guns (which fire ball bearings or plastic pellets) are often played with as toys but remember they are not toys and they can be very dangerous and, potentially, could seriously injure or kill someone.

You must remember that a BB gun is considered to be an imitation firearm, which is defined as:

 "any thing which has the appearance of being a firearm whether or not it is capable of discharging any shot, bullet or missile”.

It is illegal to carry an imitation firearm in public and the consequences could be very serious. If you carry a BB gun in a public place, you are potentially risking your life if someone sees it and calls the police.

When the police arrive, they will not know for sure that it is a BB gun. Even trained police officers have great difficulty distinguishing these guns from actual firearms and have to act as if they are real.

There is a real risk of you being shot by armed response officers who are unable to establish the exact nature of the weapon.

If you own a BB gun, the safest thing to do is to hand it in at your nearest police station.

A. Air guns, air rifles and air pistols do not need to be held on a firearms certificate, unless they are particularly powerful.
  • By law, you can only possess a powerful air weapon if you have a firearms certificate.
  • You must be 18 years old or over to buy and possess an air weapon.
  • If you are under 18 years old, you can possess an air weapon only on private land and, then, only under supervision by someone aged 21 years or over.

. They must always be used in a safe way if you want to use an air weapon  you could join a soft-air club where you can get training and supervision in how to use them properly.
If you carry your air weapon in public, on the way to and from a club, for example, it must be in a closed holder.
It is an offence to possess any air weapon, loaded or unloaded, in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.

Remember the use of any weapon can be dangerous