Discuss the meaning of 'justice'. Consider the extent to which justice is achieved in the application of legal rules. Relate your answer to examples drawn from civil law, criminal law or both
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Discuss the meaning of 'justice'. Consider the extent to which justice is achieved in the application of legal rules. Relate your answer to examples drawn from civil law, criminal law or both When the dictionary definitions of justice are considered, it is difficult to interpret a straightforward meaning of justice as the definitions can vary. Osborn's Concise Law Dictionary defines justice as 'the upholding of rights, and the punishment of wrongs, by the law'. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines justice as 'just conduct; fairness; exercise of authority in maintenance of right. (Just = acting or done in accordance with what is morally right or proper.) (Fair = free from discrimination, dishonesty... in conformity with rules or standards.)' In the first definition, it is defined that unjust conduct is that which is punishable by law, and although there is a certain level of ambiguity, a clear connection between law and justice can be seen. The second definition draws more of a connection between morality and justice; acts which are immoral are unjust.
Natural law theorists believe that all law comes from a higher source, which is superior to man made law and is based on moral rules. Aristotle believed this source could be nature whereas St Aquinas believed it was God. Some natural law theorists even believe it's permissible to break laws if they do not conform with moral rules. St Aquinas believed that laws went against the public and had no legitimacy, however he would not agree with breaking laws which would cause public disruption, as he believed this would have been against the will of God. Positivists believe that providing a law is made according to the correct procedures, it should be followed whether or not it conflicts with morality. Kelsen believed that law and morality are entirely different concepts. He believed justice was an expression of individual preferences and values and that it was just not scientifically possible to define justice. Utilitarians assess the justice of rules by looking at their consequences. The philosophy was developed during the nineteenth century, mostly from the writings of Bentham and Mill.
In terms of substantial justice, mistakes have been rectified by the introduction of such things as the practice statement. It is important that the law is allowed to change its mind, to a certain extent, as the opinion of society develops and some ideas go from right to wrong. The practice statement has also given judges in the House of Lords to avoid awkward precedents, as in Merritt v Merritt where the court avoid the precedent from Balfour v Balfour. One of the most important factors is the conscience of the jury. Sometimes the decision of the jury will almost go against the evidence given in order to reach a decision which they consider to be just. It is important for judges to remember that no two crimes are alike in the proportionality of sentencing. They must find the right punishment to fit the crime and the person who committed it. The judge must also try to balance conflicting interests as best they can.
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