Skip to content

At What Age Can I?

This section is a quick look at what ages you are allowed to do things.

The Law Stuff website has a quick timeline

 It's always worth being aware that different countries have different laws to that of the UK. To find out more visit the Government's Brits caught out by unusual laws page. 


From birth

  • You can get confidential advice and counselling
  • Give evidence in court
  • Agree to or refuse medical treatment (if you understand the implications, though a court can override your decision)
  • Buy over the counter medicines for minor illnesses
  • Choose your own religion
  • Have a bank account
  • Carry a donor card
  • Enter a public bar with someone 18+ at the Landlord's discretion, if the landlord holds a children's certificate
  • Smoke cigarettes, but not buy them
  • Have your body pierced though your parents may have to accompany you, and give consent
  • Babysit - though the parents should assess suitability - ROSPA have guidance on babysitting
  • You can be left on your own, but it is an offence for you to be left alone if it places you at risk.  The NSPCC has guidance on when it is safe to be left at home on your own
  • Make a complaint about sexual or racial harassment, or a complaint against the police
  • See your school or health records using a Subject Access Request
  • You must have your own passport to travel abroad

At Age 5

At Age 10

  • You can be convicted of a criminal offence and be given a custodial sentence if the crime is a serious one

At Age 12

  • You can see a category 12A film at the cinema without an adult and rent an age 12 video
  • You can be trained to take part in dangerous performances, but you have to have a licence from your local council
  • If you are arrested you can be kept in police detention or in local authority accommodation
  • If you are getting a new passport it has to be signed by you, not your parent

At Age 13

At Age 14

  • Your parents can be granted a justices' licence to allow you to take part in public performances abroad which can include singing, modelling and playing sport
  • You can go into a pub bar on your own, if the Landlord allows you to,but you cannot buy or consume alcohol there.

At Age 15

  •  You can see a category 15 film at the cinema and rent a 15 video
  • You can apply to join the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force at 15 years and 9 months, but you cannot serve until you are 16
  • If you are convicted of a crime, you may be sentenced to a detention and training order for up to 2 years

At Age 16

  • You can buy aerosol paint
  • You can enter a bar on your own, and can buy non alcoholic drinks
  • You can drink beer, cider or wine with a meal if you are with someone over 18
  • You can buy liqueur chocolates
  • You may join the Armed Forces with parental consent, (though you will not be eligible for active service until you are 18)
  • You can change your name without parental or court consent
  • You can hold a licence to drive a moped.  If you are disabled you may also hold  licence to drive a car
  • You can leave school on the last Friday of June if you are already 16 or will be during the summer holidays; but you must remain in education, training or employment until you are 18
  • You can work full time if you have left school.  There are some restrictions, such as not being allowed to work in a betting shop or bar when they are open.  You have to be paid the minimum wage
  • You can buy a national lottery ticket
  • You can enter into a Housing contract; which is legally enforceable
  • The Local Authority have a duty to house you if you are homeless, in need of help, in a priority need and have not made yourself intentionally homeless.  The City of York Council offer support for youth homelessness
  • You can usually leave home without parental consent
  • If you are a looked after child, you will be allocated an advisor and support through a pathway plan
  • You can apply for legal aid and will be assessed on your own means
  • You can marry or register a civil partnership with parental consent.  A court can authorise the marriage if parental consent is refused.  There is a difference between marriage and living together
  • You can choose your own GP; consent to surgical procedures; pay prescription charges (there are exemptions) and if female purchase emergency contraception over the counter in a pharmacy
  • Pay for a sight test and glasses unless you are in full time education
  • You can buy premium bonds and open an individual savings account (ISA)
  • You can buy a pet
  • You do not need a Local Authority licence to take part in public performances
  • You can consent to all sexual activity as long as they are over 16 too
  • You can get a National Insurance number and claim for certain benefits if you are eligible
  • You can apply for a passport without parental consent
  • You have to pay full fare on trains, but you can buy a 16 - 25 railcard

At Age 17

  • You can join the Armed Forces as an officer with parental consent
  • You can join the Royal Marines Reserve and Territorial Army with parental consent
  • You can donate blood
  • You can hold a licence to drive a car, small goods vehicle or agricultural tractor on the road
  • You can apply to certain Fire Brigades at 17 years and 10 months
  • You can be given a reprimand or legal warning without an appropriate adult being present

At Age 18 - you are an adult in the eyes of the law

  •  You can buy and drink alcohol in a bar.  You may be asked to show ID as proof of age
  • You can join the Armed Forces without parental consent
  • You can buy land, property, hold a tenancy or apply for a mortgage in your own right and make a will
  • You can open a bank account or get a credit card without parental consent or take out a personal loan
  • You can hold a driving licence to drive a medium goods vehicle up to 7.5 tonnes
  • You can view 18 certificate films at the cinema or buy or rent an adult video
  • You can join the Fire and Rescue Service
  • You can apply to and be appointed to the Police Service
  • You can buy fireworks
  • You can enter a betting shop and place a bet,you can also enter premises in which gaming takes place
  • You can make an application for a gender change certificate if you have been living as the other gender or have changed gender
  • You can leave home without parental consent
  • You can serve on a jury, sue someone, start court proceedings and sign documents on your own behalf
  • You can be tried and treated as an adult by the courts and if you are given a prison sentence, serve it in an adult prison
  • You can be questioned by the police without a parent or guardian
  • You can vote in elections, and stand as an MP, Councillor or Mayor
  • You can no longer be adopted, but if you have been you can apply to see your birth records and put your name and address on the Adoption Contact Register
  • You can get married and register a civil partnership without consent.  There is a difference between marriage and living together
  • You have to pay for dental treatment unless you are in full time education, pregnant or certain other circumstances
  • You can take part in an exhibition or of exhibition of hypnotism
  • You can buy cigarettes, tobacco and papers
  • You can get a tattoo
  • You can buy or hire an air weapon or ammunition for an air weapon.

At Age 21

  • You can adopt a child
  • You can supervise a learner driver if yo have held a relevant licence for 3 years or more
  • You can hold a licence to drive a minibus or to pilot a plane.  You can apply for a provisional licence to drive a large passenger vehicle or heavy goods vehicle
  • If you were a Looked After Child, your personal pathway plan will normally end, unless you are in education or training
Survival Guide image green