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Age Assessment

Age assessment is a process to decide someone’s age. This happens when the authorities (the police or social services or the court) dispute the age a child says they are.

A person’s age may be questioned, for example, because a child does not have a birth certificate or passport. This can happen when children arrive in the UK without parents or carers (unaccompanied minors).

If a person says they are under 18, they should be treated as child until their age can be verified.1

If a person’s age is disputed, the court decides the child’s age.2 The court can consider documentation and hear evidence from witnesses, it should not rely solely on the appearance of the defendant.3 In some cases the local authority may carry out an age assessment.4

Adult who is actually a child

If an adult court discovers the defendant is aged under 18, any order or judgment of the court will remain valid5 but it may be important to overturn (change) decisions that are unfair to the child. If the case has not finished, the case should be remitted (transferred) to the youth court.

Child is actually an adult

If a youth court later finds out the defendant is aged over 18, the youth court can continue to hear the case.6 Any order or judgment or sentence passed will remain valid.7

  1. Section 44 Children and Young Persons Act 1933 ‘Every court…shall have regard to the welfare of the child…’ and Article 2 UNCRC ‘the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration’.  (back)
  2. Section 99 Children and Young Persons Act 1933Section 164(1) Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 and section 150(4) Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980  (back)
  3. L, HVN, THN, T v R [2013] EWCA Crim 991 at paragraphs 21-22  (back)
  4. R (On the application of R) v London Borough of Merton [2003] EWHC 1689 (Admin) gives guidance to local authorities on the conduct of an assessment of age of a person claiming to be under 18.  (back)
  5. Section 99 Children & Young Persons Act 1933  (back)
  6. Section 48(1) Children & Young Persons Act 1933  (back)
  7. Section 99 Children & Young Persons Act 1933  (back)