Catch 16-22: Recruitment and retention of minors in the British armed forces

This report published in March 2011 examines the question of recruitment of minors in the British armed forces. It challenges the status quo currently surrounding the UK policy on recruitment and retention of under-18s highlighting the ethical, legal and financial concerns stemming from such practice.

“Catch 16-22” expressly questions the restrictions on young recruits’ rights of discharge, their minimum period of service and their exposure to the risk of hostilities.

This report shows that the evidence on drop-out rates, discharge, financial wastage, bullying, harassment, self-harm and suicide suggests that recruiting at 16 is neither in the best interests of the child nor in the best interests of the armed forces.

Finally “Catch 16-22” makes the case for a considered review and debate on the minimum recruitment age. The UK is one of fewer than 20 countries in the world which still recruits at 16. Globally, there is very little support for 16 as a minimum voluntary recruitment age. In contrast there is a clear and growing trend of 18 years as the internationally accepted minimum. Whilst the United Nations, the Defence Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights have all called on the Ministry of Defence to raise or review the minimum recruitment age, the latter has so far refused to do so.

Download this report here.