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Patrick Devlin and Morality in the Law

Patrick Devlin and Morality in the Law

First we must state clearly the questions to be examined, these could be loosely put in It is important to state Devlin's case as much debate has sprung from, and refers to it.

In 1959 Patrick Devlin gave a lecture, later published as, "The Enforcement of Morals" concerning whether morality ought to be protected by the law.

He begins equating morality with religion and its distinctions between good and evil. Religion states immorality is sinful. Should the criminal law concern itself with enforcement of morals and punishment of sin; what is the connection between crime and sin?

Devlin refers to the "Wolfenden Report" which looked particularly at the area of homosexuality and legal enforcement of morality.

In their finding the Wolfenden committee put forward the following;

"Our own formulation of the function of the criminal law so far as it concerns the subjects of this inquiry...is to preserve public order and decency, to protect the citizen from what is offensive or injurious, and to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption of others, particularly those who are specially vulnerable because they are young, weak in body or mind, inexperienced, or in a state of special physical, official or economic dependence.

It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private lives of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour, further than is nececcary to carry out the purposes we have outlined." [Ref:1, p.2]
The Wolfenden committee recognised an realm of personal or private morality, and indeed immorality.

They felt it important that both society and the law give the individual freedom of choice and action in that no act of immorality ought to be a criminal offence unless accompanied by other publicly offensive or injurious features such as public indecency, corruption or exploitation.
Devlin criticised using the term 'private morality', and prefered to term individual behaviour that was not in line with public morality, (as he felt all morality was) as being 'private behaviour'.

Immoral private behaviour ought to be tolerated unless it is injurious or causes public offense. He also asked what is meant by freedom of choice and action, is it freedom to decide for oneself what is moral and immoral or society neutral, or is it freedom to be immoral if one wants to be?
Devlin argued...

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