The Basics

Age can be a factor when it comes to determining if something is a crime or not. There are minimum ages for drinking, having sex, using prescribed drugs, driving and working amongst other things. And age can also determine where you need to be and when.

Inside Information


If you are under 18 shops or bars may not sell you alcoholic drinks of any kind. The onus is upon sellers to satisfy themselves that you are 18, and you may be asked for proof. They have the right to refuse to sell an item to you if they believe you to be underage and you are unable to prove otherwise.

If you are under 18 but over 16, you can buy beer, cider or perry (like cider but made with pears) if you are drinking it in a bar or restaurant with a meal. But note that a bag of crisps does not count as a meal!

If you are over 14 but under 18, you can go into a bar (if the staff are prepared to let you in) but you cannot drink alcohol.

There is an old remedy for reducing teething pains in babies by dipping a finger in brBen and rubbing it over the baby’s gums. However this is illegal as it is a criminal offence to give alcohol to any child under the age of 5

Tobacco and Solvents

If you are under 16 it is illegal for shopkeepers to sell you cigarettes or other tobacco products.

If you are under 18 it is illegal for a shopkeeper to sell you solvents (glue, paint, aerosols etc) if they believe you intend to use them to get high. A shopkeeper therefore is entitled to not sell you such products.

If you are driving it is illegal to drive while high from solvents just as it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Prescription drugs

If you are nervous before taking your driving test or an exam and an adult gives you one of their valium (diazepam) tablets to calm your nerves, the person giving you the tablet is committing an offence as it is illegal to supply such prescription drugs to anyone under 18.


You can only begin learning to drive from the age of 17. If you pass your test while 17 then you are still free to drive under the normal conditions. Driving under age is a criminal offence.


It is legal to have sex in England, Wales and Scotland at the age of 16 for a man and a woman or for two men. For Northern Ireland you must be 17.

There is no specific age of consent for sex between women.

Until very recently the age of consent for gay sex was higher than straight sex.

For more information about sex for young people visit this site:


An organisation may not employ you if you are under the age of 14 years. However if you are old enough to work there are certain restrictions in place which organisations must follow:


  • If you are old enough to work then an organisation is not allowed to give you any work other than light work, which means work which is not harmful to your health, safety or development and must be within your physical capabilities.
  • You cannot be given work during school hours on any school day
  • You cannot work for more than 2 hours on any school day
  • You cannot work for more than 4 hours in any day without a break of 1 hour


You cannot be employed to work in any industrial situation, which involves using or being around heavy machinery or dangerous processes.


If you go to school in England and Wales, you can leave school for good on the last Friday in June in the school year in which you turn 16 or will turn 16 before the start of the next school year. So if you are 15 now but your 16th birthday is not until February next year you will have to wait until June of next year before you can legally finish school.

Adults call it truancy, but you might call it skiving, twagging, mitching off, bunking off. Whatever your name for it, if you are out of school without a good reason when you are supposed to be there, whoever is responsible for you can be taken to court and punished by the government if you are caught. Likely punishment would be a fine and having to attend a class of their own for parenting skills.