The Rule of Law
Throughout a person’s life there is a balance between the rights and responsibilities that they are regulated by. This essay assess’ the reasons why these rights and responsibilities change and how they change during a childhood, adulthood and elderly years. When a foetus is in the womb, it has “limited legal recognition” however when the baby is born it is given a separate identity, it is registered and becomes a “legal personality. From this point on different rights and responsibilities will be gained throughout the child’s life, and they “only gain rights and responsibilities when society feels they are capable of understanding their actions and the consequences of those actions. ” Rights don’t exist without responsibilities however “baby or small child cannot be expected to take responsibility for their own actions” (pg. 74) and they do not possess the mental capacity to understand the consequences.
It is believe that when children reach the age of 10years they will have “sufficient understanding of the serious and criminal nature of their own actions and are held accountable the same way as adults. ” (pg. 75) it is at this point that “children understand the difference between bad behaviour and serious wrong doing. ”(pg. 75) Civil rights and responsibilities are different though as children cannot enter into a legal binding contract, although there are some exceptions. But this is “designed to protect children from unscrupulous behaviour. ” (pg. 6) Children and medical care has always been an area of controversy. The Family Law Act of 1969 states that Children can only give consent to medical care at the age of 16, however following the case of Gillick V West Norfolk and Wisbeck Health Authority  AC 112 it was decided that if “children under the age of 16 were competent to give their own valid consent to medical treatment if they were sufficiently mature to understand what was being proposed. ” Now if a child can prove they have ‘Gillick competency’ they are allowed to give consent. Like this, there are many other pieces of legislation written for the welfare of children, enforced by social services such as, the Education Act of 1996 required that children between the ages of 5 and 16 must attend school, full time. However it’s the parents’ responsibility to ensure this. (pg.?? ) There are also many rules on children employment such as very limited hours and the type of occupation they do. All of these Acts are for the protection of vulnerable children and adolescents.