Law and Morality

  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 17-06-15 14:51

What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules and regulations used to govern society.

Sir John Hammond "A body of principles recognised and applied by the state, admin of justice".

Compliance with legal rules is compulsory - all must obey.

Law can be implemented immediately:

  • Statutes given a commencing data.
  • Precedents can be created in court ruling - binding for furure cases in lower cases.
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What Is Morality?

Morality can be individual to a person whereas law is recognised by all society.

Laws are enforceable - morality is not. 

Morality can carry social condemnation but it is individual choise to follow it or not. 

Britain has very diverse society - different moral beliefs but all under same law.

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Differences Between Law and Morality.

Laws are enforced formally, created externally and largley concern external human conduct.

Morality has no sources, no officials and no agencies capable of creating rules and largely concerns with the inner motives of an individual. 

Morality can alter to a humans own human dignity and conscience.

Law is imposed on all memebers of society alike. Disputes resolved through looking at statutes and precedents which cannot be disputed. 

Morality is open to dispute because there is nothing to revolve disputes through. Developed over 1000s years views are much the same today - solving disputes near impossible.

There are many differences between law and morality but this does not mean they do not have a close relationship.

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Close Relationship Between Law and Morality.

Many legal rules are both moral and legal rules.

Murder, ****, theft and child abuse all violate morality and are prohibited by law. 

Sir John Salmond 'relationship between law and morality are two intersecting circles. The area of intersection representing the common ground between law and morality and the area outside the intersection representing areas separate to each.'

The common ground is known as primary law and included murder and theft. Primary law shows us that law and morality are one and the same thing, and shows how close their relationship can be.

Longlasting legal rules moral conncetions to the 10 commandments - clear example og how close the relationship between law and morality can be.

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UK Multi Cultural Society

UK very diverse multi cultural society. Religions and political codes - great variety in moral value of society. 

Diversity impact the relationship between law and morality.

Abortion raises a great variety of moral values. Some see it as immoral and will never see it as acceptable. Others feel it is moral for medical needs. Even those who argue it is moral, diasgree on the stage at which the procedure should be allowed. 

Shows relationship and also sffects the ability of law in upholding moral values. Societies moral values should be upheld by law but the example shows how it can be near impossible to achieve public consensus on this issue - impossible for law to uphlod moral values.

Gillick v Norfolk Authprity - giving contraception to under 16 without parental consent. If courts rule parental consent is required, teenage pregnancy may rise or if they rule it is not required then they may be seen to encourage underage sex. 

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R v Brown

Conserning consenting males in sadomasochistic acts which caused injury. 

Raised the argument whether law ought to uphold moral values. Acts held to be unacceptable to the public. Therefore if the law upholds the moral value would it be illegal? 

Decision raised moral and legal themems. 

Legal themes - Whether an individual should be forced to conform to the will of the majoirty, infringing their rights for the benifit of society. Should the law act as a greater goos? 

Raised the Hart and Devlin Debate concerned largely with the extent to which the law should enforce morals.

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Hart and Devlin Debate


  • believed law should not enforce morality
  • individuals should not be made to conform to the will of the majority
  • undesirable, unnecessary and morally unacceptable for law to impose morality
  • infingment on the rights of individuals.


  • society shares a common morality 
  • law should intervene to punish act that offence shared morality
  • failure to interven could result in the disintergration of society.

In R v Brown Lord's sided with Devlin. Holding sadomasochistic acts were morally unacceptable to society, so law should intervene. 

Should law uphold moral values? continuing debate, worrying that Lord's sided with Devlin, rights of individuals infringed to enforce morality.

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France and Homosexuality


Controversial laws passed in France - country is secular.

2011 'Burqu Ban' infringed on the rights of individuals to wear what they want.

2011 survey revealed 80% population in favour of banning political and religious affiliations in schools. 

So here as in Brown - societys moral view is upheld at the expence of individual's rights within society.


Law altered with changing moral values over homosexuality. Sexual Offences Act 1967 legalised homosexuality between consenting males over 21. Lowered to 18 in 1994 then 16 in 2000. Changes in line with changing moral opinions. 

Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the 2013 Gay Marriage Act dempnstrates how law changes with morality and upholds a more accommodationg moral view successfully. 

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Natural Law vs Positivists

Natural Law

  • Bases theory of law on morality.
  • Upholding morality is essential.
  • Aristotle's theory of the moral standards which govern our behaviour derive from our nature.
  • Became known as Divine Law.
  • Sir Thomas Aquinas "If Divin Law came into conflict with man made laws then Divine Law should take precedence. 
  • Theorists believe law should not only uphold morality, but that morality is the source of law.


  • Believe Natural Law is 'nonsense upon stilits'
  • No consideration for law to uphold moral valuses.
  • Care about the man made ways which law is created
  • Sir Jeremy Bentham and John Austin are positivists
  • Define law as - a body of principles, enforced by the sovereign, whom the bulk of society are in the habit of obeying; enforced by society.
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Areas where there is no shared morality lead to disputes as to whether law should allow certain behaviour. 

There were many debates prior to the relaxing of the laws on prostitution and homosexuality and, more recently, prior to the bans on smoking and fox hunting.

Euthanasia and Assissted Suicide

  • Fine line between assisted suicide and murder
  • should an individual be able to make their own decisions about ending their life?
  • should anyone who helps them be liable?
  • Pretty - premission for euthanasia refused, case received worldwide coverage. 
  • Re B - refusal of medical treatment is allowed even if death is likely. 

Designer Babies - should a person be able to choose the genetic make up of their baby? should they only do it for medical reasons? 

Quintavalle v HFEA - creation of a designer baby to treat sibling with genetic disorder is lawful. C, Quintavalle campaigned saying it was against the law but he lost. Worldwide coverage. 

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