General information on your rights and responsibilities, what is legal and illegal, and protecting and caring for children
General information on your rights and responsibilities, what is legal and illegal, and protecting and caring for children
Every person in the UK has the same basic human rights and freedoms, which are protected in law. These underpin how people live in the UK. For example:
Based on the rights and freedoms protected in law, everyone living in or visiting the UK is expected to adhere to a set of shared values and responsibilities. Core values include:
The law applies to everyone in the UK. Cases are decided by judges in a court of law. In every case both sides are treated fairly. Every person can be represented by a lawyer.
Respect for the law is very important in the UK and everyone must obey the law. If you break the law, there are consequences. You could receive a fine or you could go to prison.
It is important to know that some things which may be allowed in other countries are not acceptable in the UK and it is your responsibility to live within the law of the UK. It is also important to understand some things which may not be allowed in other countries may be legal in the UK.
There are two types of law in the UK:
Both govern what you can and cannot do in the UK.
Below are some examples of issues that are decided in law, and their consequences:
|Civil Law||Description of service|
|Marriage and divorce||Anyone can marry whomever they want unless they are closely related (e.g. sibling, half sibling or aunt/uncle) or are already married. People of the same gender can marry each other. Either partner can apply for a divorce. If the couple is unable to agree the terms of the divorce, the courts will decide them.|
|Employment||The law protects both employers and employees. If an employer asks you to do things you did not agree to in a contract, you can challenge this.|
|Consumer rights||If a company does not provide the service or product you paid for, you can challenge this.|
|Housing||Any dispute between a tenant and landlord will be settled through Civil Law. As a tenant you should be fully aware of your rights.|
|Discrimination and harassment||
Discriminating against or harassing another person on the grounds of gender reassignment, colour, national or ethnic origin, religion or belief, age, disability or sexual orientation is prohibited under the equalities legislation.
Any conduct that can reasonably be expected to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another person on any grounds is also prohibited under harassment legislation. Anyone who suffers this kind of discrimination or harassment can claim damages or seek an injunction against the perpetrator. This includes verbal insults based on religion.
|Violence||It is illegal to kill or injure another person or group of people, and this can be punished severely. Violent offences which are against UK law include forced sexual contact or behaviour and domestic violence between family members in the home|
|Racist and religious hate crime||Criminal behaviour such as violence, verbal abuse, bullying or damage to property is hate crime if it is carried out because of race or religion. This can include where the victim is believed to be of a particular religion or race, or where their partner or friend is. It is also illegal to encourage religious or racial hatred.|
|Harassment||Any conduct that can reasonably be expected to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another person on any grounds is a criminal offence. The perpetrator can face criminal charges as well as or instead of damages or an injunction under civil law|
|Sex||The age of consent (when it is legal) for two people to have sex is 16, regardless of gender or sexual orientation|
|Drugs||It is illegal to possess, transport or distribute certain controlled drugs. Punishments can be severe, including custodial sentences.|
|Alcohol||It is legal for adults over 18 to purchase and consume alcohol.
It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol.
|Smoking||It is illegal to smoke indoors in most public areas, e.g. shops, restaurants, bars. It is illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under the age of 18. In England it is also illegal to smoke in vehicles with passengers under 18. Breaking these laws could lead to a fine.|
|Driving||It is illegal to drive without a driving licence. You can begin learning to drive from 17 years of age and you must pass a driving test in order to obtain a driving licence.|
|Weapons||You cannot buy or possess a firearm without a licence. Carrying a knife in public is also punishable.|
The UK has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international laws promoting children’s rights. The UK takes children’s rights seriously and is always trying to improve the situation of all children. For this reason the UK has passed a number of laws that help protect children.
Children have a right to have their views listened to and considered. There are official Children’s Commissioners that help make sure that the rights and views of children are considered.
In some circumstances in the UK, children aged 14 and older have a right to make certain decisions for themselves, such as medical decisions.
As a parent you are legally responsible for the protection, care and well-being of your children.
It is a parent’s responsibility to make sure their children attend school. If you do not there can be legal action such as: a Parenting Order, an Education Supervision Order, a School Attendance Order or a fine.
It is an offence to leave children alone if this will put them at risk. Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone.
Going to school is very important for the welfare of a child. Helping out with tasks at home must not stop a child from going to school.
When parents are having difficulties caring for their children, the government social services may be able to offer some help or advice. UK laws require social services to investigate allegations of child neglect or abuse.
If you beat, harm or neglect your children, social services can intervene. In some severe cases courts can ask social services to take the child to a foster home to make sure they are safe from harm.
If you are concerned that a child is at risk of harm, or is being harmed, you can contact North Lincolnshire Children’s Services on:
If a child is at immediate risk, you should call Humberside Police on 999 in an emergency or on 101 for a non-emergency.
Issues related to gender and sex are taken very seriously in the UK. The law says that you cannot be discriminated against because of your sex or your gender. This means:
Domestic abuse usually occurs in the home and can take many forms:
Anybody, regardless of gender, nationality or any other distinguishing factor, can find themselves at risk of domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse is a serious crime in the UK. Anyone who is violent towards their partner, spouse or another family member, whether they are a man or a woman, married or living together, can be prosecuted. If children witness domestic abuse this could be considered child abuse and social services will investigate.
Anyone, including neighbours, can report domestic abuse and violence. Police will respond to reports and may make arrests or ask one partner to leave the home.
Conviction of a crime related to domestic abuse can negatively affect your immigration status and your ability to apply to live long term in the UK.
In some cases, courts can order the perpetrators of domestic abuse to stay away from the victim, from the family home and from places where the victim and children normally go, such as school. Violating this order can result in police action.
It is important for anyone facing domestic abuse to get help as soon as possible. There are safe places to go and stay in, called refuges or shelters.
If you experience domestic abuse, you should report it to the police. They can help you find a safe place to stay. You can also phone the 24-hour national Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline on 0808 2000 247 at any time.
Emergency numbers and Domestic Violence Helpline:
In the UK it is illegal to abuse or harm anyone for cultural reasons or reasons of family honour, whether they are a member of the same family or not. For example, it is illegal to punish another family member for what someone considers to be dishonourable behaviour. There are men and women in the UK who have been convicted and sent to prison for harming family members for reasons of honour.
If you are worried about honour based violence you can speak to the police. You can also get confidential advice from an organisation called Karma Nirvana on 0800 5999 247
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) also known as cutting or female circumcision is illegal in the UK. Practising FGM or taking a girl or woman abroad for FGM is a criminal offence punishable by law.
If you are a victim of FGM, you need to speak with your doctor. There are doctors who specialise in helping FGM victims. You can also ask for advice from one of several national organisations, such as the NSPCC on 0800 028 3550.
Children who are worried that they are in danger of FGM can speak to police, teachers, social workers, or Childline on 0800 1111.
There is a distinction between civil and religious marriages. Religious marriages are not recognised unless they are registered by the state. Some religious marriages are not recognised in the UK and couples entering into them must have a civil marriage as well.
The legal minimum age to marry in the UK is 16. In England you need parental consent to marry between the ages of 16 and 18.
In England it is legal and accepted for men and women to marry, for women and women to marry and for men and men to marry. All of these marriages are protected by law.
A marriage should be entered into with the full and free consent of both people involved.
Arranged marriages, where both parties agree to the marriage, are acceptable in the UK.
Forced marriage is where one or both parties do not or cannot give their consent or where duress is a factor. Forcing another person to marry is a criminal offence. Parents cannot force their children to marry. It is also an offence to take someone overseas to force them to marry.
In the UK it is illegal to treat anyone differently because of their gender, race, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation.
Racism is unacceptable in the UK. It is a serious offence to injure, harass or verbally abuse someone because of their race or to damage their property for that reason. It is also against the law to stir up racial hatred. It is unacceptable to discriminate against another person because of their race, ethnicity or where they came from. You should not be treated any differently because of your race when applying for a job, looking for somewhere to live, using the National Health Service (NHS) or just buying something in a shop.
You should not experience racial harassment at work, school or in public (where other people make comments about your race or where you come from that are offensive or make you uncomfortable). If you or someone you know is the victim of racism: Do tell the authorities about it.
You can go to the police. If you don’t want to walk into a police station there are many ways you can report a racist crime; for example you can do it online at www.report-it.org.uk/home.
Do not try to deal with racism or racist attackers on your own. Get the authorities involved. If you try to resolve it on your own you could get hurt or even get into trouble with the police yourself.
The police in the UK will:
The police exist to protect the public, their rights and the law. The police are there to help and assist you and you should not be afraid to approach them if you are the victim of a crime, see a crime happening, or for general assistance for example if you are lost.
If you need the police because of a crime then you should call the following telephone numbers:
999 – This is the number to call if you have an emergency, for example if you are the victim of an assault or see a crime taking place. When you call, say you need ‘police’, as this is also the number to call an ambulance or if there is a fire.
101 – This is the number to call for less urgent situations, for example if your property has been damaged, to give police information about a crime, or any general enquiries.