Army regulations are unlawfully requiring soldiers who join up before their 18th birthday to serve a longer minimum period than those who enlist as adults, it has been claimed in the High Court.
A judge heard accusations that the difference in treatment was causing real distress to young soldiers who wished to leave but were prohibited from doing so.
The accusations were made by Child Soldiers International (CSI), a charity that seeks to prevent the use of children in armed conflicts around the world and to protect the welfare of young soldiers.
The charity is asking Mr Justice Kenneth Parker, sitting in London, to declare that provisions of the Army Terms of Service Regulations 2007 are resulting in "less favourable treatment" for under-18s and are unlawful under the European Equal Treatment Directive.
David Wolfe QC, representing CSI, said the minimum service period applied to adult Army recruits was four years.