6.150We also recommend that there should be an onus on the parties to disclose prior relevant orders when applying for an injunction to avoid orders being made that were inconsistent with prior custody, access, residence or contact orders.
6.151We agreed that it seemed indefensible to maintain the age of marriage at 21 years with young people maturing at an earlier age in Hong Kong. With the exception of one of our members, we recommend that the age of marriage be reduced to 18 without parental consent and the minimum age of 16 be retained.
6.152It seems that a wardship order ceases at 18 as the Rules of the High Court (Cap 4) refer to a minor, which is defined in the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap 1) as a person under 18. However, the High Court Ordinance does not specifically state that a wardship order ceases at 18. The Law Reform Commission in its report on the Legal Effects of Age786 recommended that wardship orders cease at the age of 18 years. We suggest that it is useful for legislation to clearly specify the duration of orders.
6.153We recommend that a provision be enacted clearly specifying that the duration of wardship orders ceases at 18 years. It may also be useful to make clear that the jurisdiction of the Official Solicitor ceases at the age of 18 years, except for persons suffering a disability beyond that age.
6.154In England, a child is defined as a person below the age of 18 years.787 However, a section 8 order does not extend beyond the age of 16 years unless it expressly so provides.788 Part of the justification for this was that a child can leave school to take up employment at that age. The Scottish provision is confusing in that parental responsibilities last until 16 but the parent’s responsibility for providing guidance lasts until 18. Parental rights last until 16. For the sake of consistency, we recommend that parental responsibility for children, and provisions on the lines of section 8 orders (such as orders for residence, contact or specific issues), should cease when the child reaches 18 years.
Director of Social Welfare’s powers
6.155Since our terms of reference are confined to private law we did not undertake a review of the Protection of Children and Juveniles Ordinance (Cap 213) except in so far as it was relevant to the intervention of the Director of Social Welfare in guardianship, custody or access disputes. We have seen in chapter 2 that care and supervision orders in favour of the Director can be made under the matrimonial
786 Young Persons - Effects of Age in Civil Law (Topic 11, 1986).
787 Section 105 (1) of the Children Act 1989.
788 Section 91 (10).