3 UNCRC and legal definitions of ‘a child’
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is the world’s most ratified convention, with Somalia and the USA being the only UN members who have not ratified it.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) 1989 – which has been ratified by the UK – defines a child as any person under the age of 18. However, Article 1 UNCRC states that this definition only applies unless ‘under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier’. Therefore, a child can be defined differently in different legal contexts. England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland each have their own laws that specify age limits in different circumstances. For example, for the purposes of the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, a child is defined as any person under the age of 16. The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 defines a child as a person under the age of 18.