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Law and Morality
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| Words: 1704 | Submitted: 27-Dec-2011
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DescriptionConsensus Of Law and Morality
LAW AND MORALITY
Law is a set of rules and boundaries that are established by authorities which must be obeyed, otherwise, a sanction may be given. Law was described by Sir John Salmond as ‘the body of principles recognized and applied by the state in the administration of justice’.
While Morals are beliefs, values and principles that are set by society or part of a society, determining what is right and wrong.
Unlike legal rules, compliance with moral rules is voluntary, that are often informally enforced through social or domestic pressure.
Law and morals are both “normative”: They specify what must/ought to be done and mark the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable conduct.
However, the ways in which they both do this are different; as laws are codes of conduct which society has decided should be compulsory.
Laws are formally enforced by appointed authorities; such as Police and Criminal Prosecution Service.
With morals, they tend not to be backed by legal sanctions, but are often reinforced by social pressures; such as family and friends. They can have powerful influences on people’s behaviour, and develop over 1000’s of years; often heavily embedded in religious and social history. (Mainly Christianity) while Laws can be introduced almost immediately by Parliament or the Courts.
Law can often be seen reinforcing and seeking to uphold our moral values. But this can be seen as a major problem, regarding the nature of any moral code.
Morals will consistently change over time, to reflect a change in attitudes, and the law must attempt to keep up in these situations. An example of this can be seen in R v R (1991), which changed the law, so that rape within marriage became a crime. It was viewed that the wife was legally seen as almost the property of the husband, via the marriage agreement. This was view was morally outdated and wrong, yet the law was very slow in adapting this moral view.
If the law is to enforce morals, then it is faced with the problem that what one person considers immoral, another might not, making it harder to decide which viewpoint should it sanction? This is established in the case of Gillick, where Mrs Gillick sought a declaration that what she saw as an immoral activity (contraceptive advice and treatment available to girls under the age of consent) was illegal regarding its immorality. There was a conflict, as some saw this as immoral (as it would encourage underage sex) whilst others felt that it was moral (as underage sex would occur anyway, but this would help prevent unwanted pregnancies).
This shows that if such conflict can arise between law and morality, then the two cannot be viewed as equal.
Morals can be seen as a set of values ...
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