If an underage wizard breaks the law in a way that requires an imprisonment in Azkaban, will they be sent there even though they're underage/children? If not, who will be arrested instead?

Can the parents or guardians be held legally responsible for the actions of an underage wizard under their guardianship?

  • 12
    Not for blowing up their aunts...
    – Valorum
    Mar 6, 2018 at 12:39
  • 10
    Why would anyone else be arrested instead? Seems a rather useless thing to do. "You're being sentenced because xyz is too young to go."
    – Edlothiad
    Mar 6, 2018 at 13:01
  • 1
    I don't recall, but when Harry was on "trial" after fighting off the dementor and saving Dudley, did they say what his punishment would have been had he been found guilty (by 51% of the vote apparently). Was it just expulsion from Hogwarts or something else? Sidebar, but lots of stuff in HP struck me as over-punitive.
    – userLTK
    Mar 6, 2018 at 13:15
  • 3
    @Simpleton i agree it's hard to tell based on the data we have... btw i wonder was Morfin Gaunt of age when he was first arrested?
    – user68762
    Mar 6, 2018 at 14:33
  • 3
    Hagrid's wand got snapped in half when they thought he'd accidentally killed someone as a child, but he got carted off to Azkaban as an adult.
    – Kitkat
    Mar 6, 2018 at 16:08

1 Answer 1


Almost certainly not.

Snape was confident that Lily wouldn't go to Azkaban for underage magic.

"Tell me about the Dementors again."
"What d'you want to know about them for?"
"If I use magic outside school -"
"They wouldn't give you to the Dementors for that! Dementors are for people who do really bad stuff. They guard the wizard prison, Azkaban, you're too -"
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33, The Prince's Tale).

This is backed up by Harry's experience of the legal system. Harry was threatened with expulsion and having his wand snapped in half but never with Azkaban. He did fret about being sent there.

He, Harry, had broken wizard law just like Sirius Black. Was inflating Aunt Marge bad enough to land him in Azkaban? Harry didn't know anything about the wizard prison, though everyone he'd ever heard speak of it did so in the same fearful tone.
(Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 3, The Knight Bus).

But Cornelius Fudge quickly dismissed his concerns.

"I broke the law!" Harry said. "The Decree for the Restriction of Underage Wizardry!"
"Oh, my dear boy, we're not going to punish you for a little thing like that!" cried Fudge, waving his crumpet impatiently. "It was an accident! We don't send people to Azkaban just for blowing up their aunts!"
(Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 3, The Knight Bus).

This reinforces Snape's statement. Fudge strongly suggests that Azkaban is not a consideration for a wizard who's been found guilty of underage wizardry. Expulsion and wand-snapping are really seen as punishment enough. As Snape says, Azkaban is only really given as a punishment for the most serious crimes.

Furthermore, if children were sent to Azkaban then we surely would have expected Hagrid to be sent there. He was suspected of murder and letting a deadly beast loose in the castle. This was a much more serious affair than doing magic outside of Hogwarts. Yet the punishment was, again, expulsion from school and life as a Squib. If they're not willing to send suspected murderers there then I struggle to think of a crime which would merit Azkaban. The Unforgivables supposedly earn culprits a lifetime sentence in Azkaban, although killing a girl with a giant spider can't be that much better than using Avada Kedavra, surely? Hagrid didn't go to Azkaban, so I struggle to think of a case where a child would be sent there. (Voldemort committed a triple homicide before coming of age so he may have been considered for Azkaban if he'd been caught, although of course he successfully pinned it on Morfin).

The youngest person we see sent to Azkaban is probably Barty Crouch Junior, who was about 19 at the time. We aren't told how old Morfin was when he was convicted although he is described in the text as "a man", so he must have been of age.

As to the question of parental responsibility, the Ministry does expect parents to keep their children in tow.

"But how come the Ministry didn't realise that Voldemort had done all that to Morfin?" Harry asked angrily. "He was under age at the time, wasn't he? I thought they could detect under-age magic!"
"You are quite right - they can detect magic, but not the perpetrator: you will remember that you were blamed by the Ministry for the Hover Charm that was, in fact, cast by -"
"Dobby," growled Harry; this injustice still rankled. "So if you're under age and you do magic inside an adult witch or wizard's house, the Ministry won't know?"
"They will certainly be unable to tell who performed the magic," said Dumbledore, smiling slightly at the look of great indignation on Harry's face. "They rely on witch and wizard parents to enforce their offspring's obedience while within their walls."
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 17, A Sluggish Memory).

Parents clearly have a duty to ensure that the law is obeyed inside their house, although there is no mention given of the penalties for non-compliance.

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