The Effect of Morality and Justice on Law

The Effect of Morality and Justice on Law
Over the years, the legal personnel of the English Legal System have tried to separate law from morality and justice. This has proven to be quite a hard task considering the fact that even the House of Lords judges allow their morals to influence their decisions on certain cases. I think it is difficult to separate morality from law because most of the laws in Britain are an example of enacted morality, such as the law on manslaughter and murder, which echoes the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." Separating justice from law is just as hard. The dictionary definition of justice is ?the normative idea of the proper outcome to a case.? People seem to misinterpret this and understand it as the actual outcome of the case and so having been through the process of law and not getting the outcome they expected they say that justice was not done. Moral principles can prove to be justificatory, that is they provide reasons for actions rather than excuses; they are concerned with the rights of those other than the originator of the principle
A moral justification will provide a valid reason why something should or should not happen. A famous debate concerning morals was between a Professor Hart and Lord Devlin. Professor Hart argued that morality was something totally different to law. He said law was the logical correct decision and morals were private judgements. Lord Devlin said law and morals were one of the same. The statement, ?You can?t legislate morality,? is, in my opinion, a half truth. Almost every law on the statute books of every civil government is based on a moral, for example, slander or perjury laws enact the moral requirement ?thou shalt not bear false witness.? Traffic laws are moral laws also; their purpose is to protect life and property. Again they reflect the Ten Commandments. This is what many people will argue when told that morality is not the same as law. Law is concerned with right and wrong, it restrains evil and protects good, isn?t this what most people understand morality as? Obviously people aren?t going to notice the difference between law and morality if morality is the foundation of many laws in our legal system. Even legal personnel allow their morals to influence them in cases, as was the case in 1993 of R v Brown. A group of adult men, having given their full consent, took part in sadomasochistic acts. Their case reached the House of Lords, where it was ruled that their behaviour was a breach of the criminal law of assault. Only three out of five agreed with the decision. One of the judges on the case, Lord Templeman, who noticeably agreed with Lord Devlin?s way of thinking, stated that ?society needed to be protected against a cult of violence? and that it was ?uncivilised.? Another judge working alongside Lord Templeman, known as Lord Slynn disagreed and argued that there was nothing in the law saying these men had done wrong. He argued that the judges should think of the law and not of their feelings towards this particular subject. And so there you have it; morals cause conflict between judges during cases. It is hard even for them to separate morals and law in certain cases. The main difference between law and morality is that morality changes according to people, slowly and only at the will of the people. It cannot be deliberately changed whereas law can and is deliberately changed by legislation. Another variation is that morality is voluntary; people do not have to comply with moral rules but they do have to meet the terms of law. If somebody does something considered morally wrong they will not be faced with official sanctions although they may feel guilty or ashamed. However if somebody does something wrong by the law they will be faced with legal proceedings. Justice is not provided by law. Justice is what the law aims to achieve. It is the ultimate goal which law should try its hardest to accomplish. Understandably this cannot always be the case and so people may complain that justice was not done. As with morals people have different ideas of what justice is. Some may say justice is the outcome of the case and some may say it is applying the same set rules to all people. In 1996 there was a case concerning a 76 year old man, Mr William Newberry and a known burglar, Mr Mark Revill. The 21 year old burglar had attempted to break into Mr Newberry?s brick shed. Mr Newberry, who was asleep in his shed with an air rifle and a 12-bore shot gun, both for which he had ammunition, awoke after hearing the noise outside the shed. He poked the loaded shotgun through a small hole in the shed and fired. The shot hit Mr Revill on his right upper arm and chest. Mr Revill was, as expected, prosecuted for a variety of crimes including the attempted burglary and sentenced. Unexpectedly Mr Newberry was then sued in the civil court by the burglar for wounding him. Mr Newberry was ordered to pay over £4000 in damages. Now, plenty of people would say that justice was not achieved in this particular case. Why should a 76 year old man who shot a burglar have to pay damages to him? If the burglar wasn?t trying to burgle he wouldn?t have been shot. He was somewhere he shouldn?t have been and so he should face the consequences of it, he definitely shouldn?t be rewarded for it. Why play with fire if you don?t want to be burnt? Mr Revill knew exactly what he was letting himself in for, no sane person will let somebody walk in and take their possessions. Maybe he didn?t expect to be shot at and maybe using a gun is kind of drastic but what other means of protection has an elderly man got against a 21 year old? Yes he could have a guard dog but dogs need caring for, maybe Mr Newberry felt he wouldn?t be able to take the dog on walks or feed him properly. Maybe he could have phoned the police but the burglars may have taken off by then. All is possible. I don?t think it was a very just decision to make Mr Newberry pay damages when clearly the trouble was brought to him. It is cases like these where law and justice come into conflict. I think it is important to understand the fact that both morality and justice are separate to law however all three concepts do overlap in the sense that a lot of laws are on the basis of morals and morals are each individuals idea of justice.

The Effect of Morality and Justice on Law 7.4 of 10 on the basis of 3949 Review.