The Enforceability of Law and Morality

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The enforceability of law and morality, around the globe, has been a difficult area of contention due to its polycentric nature. The doctrine imposes positive obligations upon a State and its enforceability depends upon every regime’s own political ideology, primary and secondary sources and judicial verdicts. In order to extrapolate and reason the notion of Criminal Law being used by England and Wales to constrict unsound behaviour, of such rights within the legal framework of these societies and the arguments made therein, it is essential to evaluate the arguments and debates, which lay down the bedrock foundation of the paradigm of morality in the community. Moreover, numerous case law precedents, for instance, Evans and Brown, which have been established over the past decades, and the traditional law, which pioneered the concept of law and morality, shall be discussed.

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However, the factual soul of the dialogue shall be the disparity between the arguments of different commentators and calculate the extent which can be reached by justifiably using Criminal Law to avoid and punish acts falling in the category of immorality. Law and morality share an expressive connection and aid to supervise human conduct. Law achieves this principally through threatening sanctions if the legal procedures and notions are violated. Consequently, morality encompasses incentives which prove advantageous not only touching one specific person, rather the full community. If a wrong deed is committed, guiltiness and distress are experienced. However, if a correct task has been supported, admiration and benefits are just some of the numerous aspects enjoyed by a person.

The strength applied back and forth by the philosophies of ethics establish an imperative motivation in the social conduct[1]. Gracefully interlaced into the elementary assembly of a society, the law of a community can express about the standards and welfares it hosts. This assists the expansion of a bottomless attention and curiosity for sociologists and historians, for instance, Weber and Durkheim. In view of the example of death penalty, if one community has eliminated it while the other has not, this antithetical section not only unveils the deviating legal basis, but also the oddity of each of the communities and how they support their fundamental principles[2]. In the view of Race Relations Act 1965, it can be indicated that judicial engagements also mirror and endorse certain moralities.

The efficiency by the implementation of morals can be evaluated by the mass of the incentive one believes to attain. This can be in the form of both fault and appraisal as how much it matters to the specific being. Before reaching the heart of the argument, it is of accurate worth to match law and morality which, according to Steven Shavell are noted as ‘controllers of our manners’[3]. The first variance is the expenditure of the execution of both of these controllers. Introducing the law is a rationally economical technique since it requires only the law to be approved by a legislative organisation, or a judicial precedent set out by a judge leading to the rule being accessibly connected.

Contrastingly, the launch of moral values is vastly expensive from a social perspective. For instance, a law can be approved against littering and its non-compliance would commonly lead to a consequence, in the form of a fine. Nevertheless, observing the same position in the context of morality, elevated its worth tremendously. To be instilled with morals concerning not to litter, lie, or do whatsoever giving an upsurge to the belief of fault, necessitates years of dedicated service by schools, religious establishments in the view of morality’s relation with religion and obligations of parentage. Once these channels are considered, only then the culture’s investment in morals would be measured productive. Fundamentally, it is recognised that all the modes above have other responsibilities than coaching on morals, therefore, an excessive deal of determination is essential to be devoted to children. In this logic, Steven Shavell considers that legal directions enjoy an advantage over moral instructions.

Furthermore, legal procedures can be polished to counter precise requirements and can be revised as well. They are custom-made to encourage a communally foreseen manner and to discourage unwanted behaviour at a vastly thorough level, making them bendable and this resistance points to a considerably purer use of the legal maxims. However, moral guidelines cannot be too comprehensive and distinct in character. The chief cause regards to the degree that they are necessitated to be tutored to individuals, particularly throughout their youth and an extensive scale of intellect is of factual worth for the engagement of these ethics.

The use of morals also sums to the complication as Steven Shavell clarifies. Persons often need to apply the morals promptly, subject to the condition, a rule believed fit for that precise purpose. Practical enough to say, they cannot be changed like legal concepts since it would take a generation to do that. However, if morals are of an all-purpose nature, their precise clarification can be altered speedily. It is central to note that the absence of plasticity of moral rules will more often lead to errors in conduct than legal rules. Additionally, the chief variance among the two ‘regulators’ is that of sanctions.

Legal rules can be imposed by financial consent and by sentence; two issues reliant on the wealth and lifetime of an individual. Associating this to morality, it is understandable that they stand much weaker in the light of sanctions since one losing wealth or a big portion of one’s lifetime would outweigh guilt and disapproval.

Hence it can be argued that legal rules are superior to morals in the framework of sanctions relating to enforceability. Circumstance based chance of legal approvals rests upon the fact of observations. Someone is required to report a matter of concern, for instance a victim can bring a claim and be subject to the legal route. In contrast, if a person who considers cheating on his taxes to be immoral, will unquestionably feel embarrassed for doing so and will certainly feel righteous for paying the correct sum, because he will know whether he justly paid his taxes. Moreover, as per Douglas Husak, criminal law has been noted as a last resort when discussing the implementation of different aspects of law.

Present statutory authorities deliver an insufficient model of illegalisation since it declines to deliver an explanation adequate to dominate definite treasured privileges. The state has been bound to treat every being equally in shielding the importance of not to be penalised for that it must not punish some whereas sparing others if it has the similar intention to penalise both. In R V Stone and Dobinson[4], the appeal was discharged on the ground of the duty of care whereas in Regina V Wilson[5], the appeal was allowed. The reason in the latter was the absence of proof of more pain than tattooing, which if carried out, did not encompass a crime under Section 47 of the Offences Against The Persons Act 1861. Moreover, in R V Brown[6], the appeals were dismissed while Lord Mustill and Lord Slynn of Hadley disagreed. Though the applicant had to demonstrate the absence of consensus to secure a verdict for a plain assault, it was not in the communal attention that a being should wound or cause definite physical harm to another for no valid motive, and in the lack of which, the victim’s approval afforded no resistance to a charge under Section 20 or 47 of the OAPA 1861[7]. These cases establish that a definite margin has to be drawn between the application of criminal law and public law related to morals and values. Shaw V Director of Public Prosecutions

[8] exhibits the idea of debasing public ethics with the disagreement of Lord Reid. It was believed that an offence of conspiracy to corrupt the morals rested at common law, and per Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, Lord Tucker and Lord Hodson agreeing, it was unlawful as a plot to commit an unjust deed which was intended to be the root of communal harm or an unlawful crime. This case reveals the notion that public values are of true essence and their protection is inscribed at the hands of the conventional law.

Consequently, with gradual developments in case law precedents, morality has also been assessed with respect to private life and family. This can be analysed in the case of Evans V UK[9], relating to human fertilization and storage of embryos. It was held by the majority that an embryo did not have any liberated rights and could not claim a right to life under Article 2. Another case related to the similar concern is L V Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and Another[10]. Moreover, in Laskey and Others V United Kingdom[11], it was specious from the verdict of the House of Lords that the views of the majority were constructed on the extreme nature of the practices and not the sexual capacities of the claimants, hence there was no breach of Article 8(2). In R V R[12], the appeal was discharged and it was said that there was no longer a legislative authority that a wife was considered to have believed conclusively to sexual intercourse with her husband and the defendant’s conviction would be upheld. Furthermore, the House of Lords in Airedale NHS Trust V Bland[13] dismissed the appeal and decided on the base of the sanctity of life which was not absolute. Both R V R and Airedale NHS unveil the fact that criminal law, important for the safeguard of innocent parties, is the driving force behind the exercise of certain legal authorities to punish the one who committed the crime, somewhat considers immorality as an important feature of the wrongful behaviour.

Advancing in the discussion, it is vital to discuss and analyse how Lord Devlin addressed and saw the enforcement of morals in the context of conventional law. It has been significantly quizzed that since most Englishmen consider prostitution and the publication of pornography immoral, should they be made criminal? This was a matter of great debate and numerous controversies. Lord Devlin thought that the Wolfenden ideals derived from John Stuart Mill’s lessons were unquestionable and undisputable and he planned to address the variations critical to make the criminal law of England imitate these ideal concepts. It is necessary to note that the detail of his disillusionment is strong, however, its degree is not. Two opinions were born through his workings. The first is demonstrated in the well-thought-out form in the Maccabaean Lecture arguing from society’s claim to defend its identifiable presence. Conversely, the second opinion is much more dynamic and discusses from the mass’s right to monitor its own ethical principles in protecting its communal milieu from the modification it faces. The first opinion has acknowledged a great deal of attention from the critics and it has been pointed out that a culture cannot live unless some ideals are of the subsequent class, since some ethical traditionalism is indispensable to its lifecycle. Professor H.L.A Hart, answering the argument’s presence at the heart of the address, supposed that it lays upon a disorderly origin of what a society is. He was of the view that if one grasps anything like a conservative concept of a society, it is irrational to propose that every exercise the society visions as intensely dishonest and revolting impends its existence. He identified that Lord Devlin’s argument is unsuccessful whether a conservative or a false logic of the social order is engaged.

Subsequently, Devlin responded to Hart which uncovered a stern defect in the design of the disagreement expressing that the following stage of the dispute (the central prerogative that society has an authority to implement and administer its civic morality by law) must be agreed. Devlin settled that if the society dislikes homosexuality enough, it is warranted in banning it and obliging humans to pick between the desolations of hindrance and oppression as of the risk the exercise offers to society’s presence.

Touching the tail of the opinions, it is imperative to know the consequence of morality on law and how the ethical principles have influenced the legal charter. For instance, legal sanctions should be determined in a mode that copies to some extent, the retributivist ethical code that offenders be penalised in ratio to the severity of their immoral deeds. Both law and morality, work shoulder to shoulder to govern a massive range of conduct, particularly, most criminalities and offences are not only lawfully sanctionable but are also believed to be immoral. Concluding the discussion with assessing the effect of morality on law, the case law analysed above, along with the extensive explanations of judicial sources, it is viable to say that the State and society in both England and Wales are greatly justified in using Criminal Law. The reasons for this revolve around the margin which has been neatly maintained between the application of criminal law provisions and the law affecting public morals.

Since the balance has been maintained between the two, the statutory authorities governing and upholding criminal law clearly devise decisions keeping in mind the notion of morality. It has truly been established that an immoral conduct affects the wrongdoer and this can have consequences, both in respect of legality and immorality. In the start of the discussion, a fine line and a contrast has been neatly tailored between law and morality which exhibits that criminal law is used to prevent crimes which are deemed immoral. Moreover, another critical comment can be expressed over the discussion of the case law as analysed above. Since the cases circl around criminal activities and some contrasting concerns, the judicial authorities have shown that the courts take the concept of morality seriously and make sure that it balances both the application of criminal law and morality. Bibliography: Cases: R V Stone and Dobinson[1977] 141 J.P. 354 (CA) Regina V Wilson[1997] 2 C.R. A.P.P 47 (QB) R V Brown[1994] 1 A.C. 212 (HL) Shaw V Director of Public Prosecutions[1961] All ER 446 (HL) Evans V United Kingdom[2007] 2 F.C.R 5 (ECHR) L V Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and Another[2008] E.W.H.C. 2149 (Fam) Laskey and Others V United Kingdom[1997] 21627/93 (ECHR) R V R[1992] 1 A.C. 599 (HL) Airedale NHS Trust V Bland[1993] A.C. 789 (HL) Legislation: Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 Race Relations Act 1965 Articles: S Shavell, ‘Law versus Morality as Regulators of Conduct’ [2002] LM 2, 4 D Husak, ‘The Criminal Law as Last Resort’ [2004] CL 207, 235 R Dworkin, ‘Lord Devlin and the Enforcement of Morals’ [1966] EM 986, 998 H L A Hart, ‘Social Solidarity and the Enforcement of Morality’ [1967] SSEM 1, 13 R Singh, ‘Law as a system of values’ [2013] LSV 1, 3 N Walker and M Argyle, ‘Does The Law Affect Moral Judgments?’ DLAMJ 570, 576 P Cane, ‘Taking Law Seriously: Starting Points of the Hart/Devlin Debate’ [2004] HDD 22, 29 H L A Hart, ‘Positivism and the Separation of Law and Morals’ [1958] PSLM 593, 607 H L A Hart, ‘Immorality and Treason’ [1959] IT 1, 3 Word Count: 2,303

[1] S Shavell, ‘Law versus Morality as Regulators of Conduct’ [2002] LM 2, 4

[2] R Singh, ‘Law as a system of values’ [2013] LSV 1, 3

[3] ‘Regulators of our conduct’.

[4] R V Stone and Dobinson[1977] 141 J.P. 354 (CA)

[5] Regina V Wilson[1997] 2 C.R. A.P.P 47 (QB)

[6] R V Brown[1994] 1 A.C. 212 (HL)

[7] Offences Against the Persons Act 1861

[8] Shaw V Director of Public Prosecutions[1961] All ER 446 (HL)

[9] Evans V United Kingdom[2007] 2 F.C.R 5 (ECHR) [10] L V Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and Another[2008] E.W.H.C. 2149 (Fam) [11] Laskey and Others V United Kingdom[1997] 21627/93 (ECHR) [12] R V R[1992] 1 A.C. 599 (HL) [13] Airedale NHS Trust V Bland[1993] A.C. 789 (HL)

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The Enforceability of Law and Morality. (2017, Jun 26). Retrieved December 4, 2022 , from

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