Law safer place to live in. Strict boundaries if

Law is defined
as the rules created to help better govern our society, and make it a safer place
to live in. Strict boundaries if you will, that must be obeyed or else a
sanction may be given. Morality then is a person’s conscious sense of right and
wrong. Law is to some extent based on morals however, not everyone will have
the same morals. As morals can be derived from a number of different sources,
such as parents and friends or even the media. It is clear to see that as our
morals continue to change in order to accommodate a more ‘modern’ way of life,
so do our laws, even if there is a constant battle to keep up. The question is,
do they have anything in common? I do believe that the law does reflect on our
commonly held values to a certain extent, and therefore in this essay I will be
discussing how law and morality mesh together in society today as well as going
in to detail as to whether or not it did in the past. And how our laws reflect on
our commonly held values.

 

The laws
that we have in place today do somewhat reflect on our commonly held values,
for example, most of us have been brought up with our parents telling us that
drugs are bad, and that they are seen as something unthinkable. From a young
age this has been put in our heads and has become part of our morals. We know
its wrong. So then for there to be strict laws in most countries in the world to
ban drugs, must mean that there is some kind of a connection between, commonly
held values and the laws that have been set in place. There are however a lot
of laws that may not reflect the peoples commonly held values, such as some
traffic laws or immigration laws. Not everyone can agree with every law that is
passed. This is mainly because some laws are not authorised through legislature
and instead by judicial decision, and this therefore may not reflect the will
of the people, or in fact their commonly held values. Another reason for this
is that people may not share the same morals as everyone else in the world.
Morals are influenced by a mixture of religion, culture, family, friends and
the media so it is natural that people will have different values and views
around the world.

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“Positive law,
or law existing by position. As contradistinguished to the rules which I style
positive morality.”1 Here
John Austin claims that positive laws and positive morality are contrasts,
meaning laws set for society are not influenced by morals but by political
superiors. Positive laws are that which have been laid down by a court or any
other human institution. This is the opposite to natural law “The laws set by
God to men is frequently styled the law of nature, or natural law:”2
as put by John Austin. This is important as it shows that there is clearly a
difference between morals and set laws. He then goes on to describe natural law
as “Divine law”3
This implies that natural law is the law that is believed to come directly from
God, so natural law is a body of rules of conduct inherited by human kind,
which can be seen as our morals. It is clear to see that Mr John Austin had very
strong views on the matter. He believed that there were two types of laws, and
that they should not be confused as morals would not have a place in the laws
of society.

 

Morals are
not defined as rules of how me must act but instead guidelines of how we should
try to act, and although they are not enforced on us they are informally
imposed on us by our peers. Law can therefore be related to morality as for
example, Lord Atkins’ ‘neighbour principle’ which was taken from the biblical
command of ‘love thy neighbour’, which also translates to not harming thy
neighbour.

 

There are
some actions that we can all class as ‘wrong’ from both moral and legal view
points, such as murder. However, there are some crimes, for example, parking in
the wrong place, are not seen as immoral. This therefore shows that although
something is illegal, it may not necessarily be seen as immoral, which means
that the two are clearly not the same. Another reason for this is that laws
must be obeyed, as they are formally enforced and therefore law and morality
can not be fully compared. Although they are however connected, an example of
this is the ‘Vote of conscience’

 

Our morals
are constantly changing as time goes by in order to adapt to our more ‘modern’
way of life and of thinking about life. The law then must at the very least attempt
to keep up with our ever changing morals. For example in the case R v R (1991)4
 the defendant was charged with attempted
rape of a lady who he was legally still married to however at the time of the
offence they were said to be separated, although not legally divorced. This was
when the law changed so that rape between a married couple was seen as a crime.
In the past a woman was legally seen as the as a mans ‘property’, once they
were husband and wife and had agreed to marriage. However, at the time that
this law was passed, it is clear that this view was outdated and incredibly
morally wrong, this is proof that the law does take longer to catch up to
morality. But also that moral values do in fact influence the law in some cases,
because if this viewpoint was not seen as morally wrong and outdated, at the
time of the case, the law may have never changed.

 

As the
previous example showed, laws can often strive to try to uphold our moral
values. As everyone has different morals, it would be very hard to try to make
the law so that it fits around our morals, especially in society today. For example,
the UK has become so multicultural that there are many different people now
living here. There are many different cultures and religions and therefore many
different view points, which would make it increasingly difficult if the law
was to change so quickly to suit people’s morals and values. As we would be
faced with a problem because what one person may believe is immoral, another
person may not think so. So how would we decide what viewpoint we should
sanction? This is shown in the Gillick case5,
where Mrs Victoria Gillick took her local health authority to court, on the
fact that giving contraceptive advice to girls under the age of consent was wrong,
as she believed it was morally incorrect. This immediately split people in to
two groups as some saw it as immoral, because they believed that this would
influence younger girls in to having under age sex. On the other hand, the others
felt that this would in fact help prevent unwanted teenage pregnancies. As
underage sex was bound to happen, but they believed that measures should be
taken in order to prevent other ‘problems’ as a result of this. This is proof
that we can not completely view morality and law as equal if there can be such
a difference of view points.

 

In
conclusion to the question, the law is somewhat influenced by morality, this is
due to the fact that a lot of cases pass through our courts and the people
working in our courts often find themselves in the middle of a difficult moral
decisions, having to choose between morals and individual rights. There is
clearly a close relationship between both of these topics. The law does in fact
hold moral values in some cases, and it is clear to see that as our morals change,
although at a much slower rate, so do our laws. It is important however, not to
confuse moral values and law as the extent to which law should be influenced by
moral values remains unanswered. As if the law did completely reflect our commonly
held values it would be very hard to balance because everybody has different
values, and beliefs. It would be near impossible to take in to consideration
everyone’s values, in order to completely mesh law and morality into one.

 

1
 John Austin, Lectures on Jurisprudence, The Philosophy
of positive law. Fourth Edition. (page 89)

2
John Austin Lectures on
Jurisprudence, The Philosophy of positive law. Fourth Edition.  (Page 88)

3
John Austin Lectures on
Jurisprudence, The Philosophy of positive law. Fourth Edition. (Page 88)

4
 R v R 1991 3 WLR 767 House of Lords

5
Gillick v West Norfolk, 1984