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Write a Critical Analysis of the Relationship Between Law and Morals?

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Rules exist in many contexts, not just in the case of legal rules or even moral rules. A rule is something that determines the way in which we behave, whether because we submit ourselves to it voluntarily, as would be the case with moral rules, or because it is enforceable in some general way, as would be the case with laws.

Many rules are neither morally binding, nor do they ultimately have the force of law attached to them. Nevertheless, they are necessary and generally adhered to because of the context in which they operate. Rules might also come about through custom or practice, and involve the disapproval of the community rather than any legal sanction if such a rule is broken. The bills of exchange act 1882 in effect did little more than to put into statutory form the practices which merchants had willingly followed over many centuries.

Hart however insists that rules should be distinguished from mere habit or practice. He suggests that the defining characteristic of a rule is its enforceability. Rules are generally obeyed for one of three reasons.

1. Because they carry a sense of moral obligation this can be seen in relation to crime where most offences particularly those committed against the person, are seen as morally religious codes. The basic justification for the HOL decision in Shaw V DPP 1962 was that the judges are the ultimate guardians of our morals and have a duty to act against immoral behavior.

2. Because the rule is reasonable and relevant parliament is said to be legislatively supreme but even parliamentary law may have to be abandoned if it is seen as too irrelevant or too unfair. The classic example of this was “Poll Tax” in the 1980’s.

3. Because a penalty may be imposed if the rule is broken. This explains why people obey rules that they disagree with, such as when compulsory seat-belt wearing was introduced.

Morality is generally to do with beliefs, so may be affected by religion. We all have a moral code of some kind which defines what we think is and is not acceptable behavior. Morally can differ from culture to culture and from individual to individual, although some behavior is universally unacceptable. In inevitably morality has an impact on law, particularly the criminal law. Very often it concerns behaviour a sexual nature and leads to controversy.

Often morality finds it roots in religion. The bible provides a moral code for Christian communities both in the very basic and strict rules of the Ten Commandments, and in the more advanced socially aware teachings of Christ. The Koran provides a very extensive moral code for Muslims.

A good example of this is adultery. This is against the moral code for both Christians and Muslims, but is not considered a crime in Christian countries. In fact, in England it is merely evidence of an irretrievable breakdown of a marriage sufficient to permit one party to the marriage a divorce. However, in some Muslim countries, though not all, it is against the criminal law and attaches criminal penalties.

In England and Wales there has been a move away from religious beliefs and the way that the law has developed reflects this. Abortion was first legalized in 1967, yet it would be fair to say that most people still believe it is morally wrong. Whiles English law clings to the idea that euthanasia is unacceptable there is clear call for its legalisation in recent cases such as R v DPP 2001, and even doctors have shown a moral acceptance of its need in instances of terminally ill patients suffering dreadful pain ad in R v Cox 1992 and R v Arthur 1981. Again many groups believe that this immoral as it denies the sanctity of human life.

One of they key problems with morality is that while many moral views coincide there are also many that differ wildly. It is almost impossible to find a single set of moral values that would be acceptable

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