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Discuss the relationship between law and morals.

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Introduction

Discuss the relationship between Law and Morals. Consider how far the law seeks to uphold and promote moral values? (June 2002) Laws are legal rules backed by official state sanction and procedures. Failure to follow law results in punishment. The oxford dictionary states "a rule or a system of rules recognised by a country or community as regulating the actions of its members and enforced by the imposition of penalties." Therefore the main reason for laws is to protect individuals and their property from harm in order to preserve command in society and punish those who deserve punishment. Sir John Salmond describes law as "the body of principles recognised and applied by the state in the administration of justice." Morals on the other hand are beliefs and values which are shared by an individual or a group of people based on what is right or wrong. Moral values are normally based on the dominant religion being Christianity, as well as other sources of moral beliefs. These values lead to debates which normally consist of sexual issues and standards of behaviour. In relation to the question, law and morals assist each other. Aristotle stated that the "rule of law is better than the rule of the individual." ...read more.

Middle

He stated that "Just what people happen to believe or accept is not to be equated with correct standards of morality." He also said that "using the law to enforce moral values was unnecessary, undesirable, as morality is a matter of private judgement." Here it is evident that Professor Hart was familiar with the significance of individual autonomy as he did not want moral beliefs and values to impact upon and symbolize legal rules. Harts view was also shared by the French sociologist Durkheim who stated that "in a modern society it is very difficult to pin point a set of moral values." However in comparison, Lord Devlin rejected Professor Hart's view and stated that "morality is not simply individual judgement...society must have recognised common morality." Here it is strongly evident that Lord Devlin wanted moral values to be endorsed through law. In addition to this there seems to be a contradiction between the relationship of law and morals. This is expressed through The Sexual Offences Act which states that homosexual and heterosexual couples have the same rights. However this understanding was not fully applied in the case of R v Brown (1993), where the defendants were held liable of homosexual sado-masochistic acts even though all participants consented. ...read more.

Conclusion

Changing attitudes in society also reflect the way in which the law seeks to uphold and promote morality. This is seen in the case of R v R (1991) in which the defendant, who was living away from his wife; raped her in her parents' home which he had forcibly entered. Here Lord Keith stated that "This is not the creation of a new offence, it is the removal of a common law fiction which has become anachronistic and offensive and we consider that it is our duty having reached that conclusion to act upon it." This eliminated the ancient rule that a wife was deemed to have given her consent irrevocably once she was married. Lord Keith saw this as an example of law developing in the light of changing social and cultural advances. In conclusion it can be said that the law does indeed uphold and promote moral values in most legislation. This can be seen as whilst morals are varying overtime, so are laws; exemplifying to us that law and morals share a powerful connection. Though in most legal rules, moral values are not upheld and this is very apparent. By and large as stated by Hart, moral values and laws share a likeness, "they share a general habit of obedience within society to which they apply." ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 Pooja Sharma ...read more.

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