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Lord Patrick Devlin's Views on The Enforcement of Morals via Legi...

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Lord Patrick Devlin's Views on The Enforcement of Morals via Legislation.

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Introduction

Lord Patrick Devlin was a prominent judge in Britain from 1948 until 1960. In 1965 Devlin authored a book entitled "The Enforcement of Morals" which focuses on the view that popular morality should be taken into consideration when making laws and enforcing them. His book is intended for the educated audience for example legal scholars, university students and even the law-makers of the time and aims at persuading these people that public morality should govern our legal judgments. Focusing in particular on Chapter I, Devlin creates balanced arguments both for and against his view by using both legal and moral examples of the time (such as homosexuality and prostitution) with a constant reference to the existence of a public morality which he believes cannot be ignored. This report elaborates on the arguments and examples put forth in the text.

The Wolfenden Report

Released in 1957, The Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution was outlined that what was done in private is the business of the individual and should not be subject to intervention by the state.

The report recommends the function of the law regarding these acts and stated that "its function, [as we see it] 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" and it is not "the function of the law to intervene in the private lives of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour" .

Devlin's Central Thesis

Devlin's central thesis throughout the text is that the morals of society should be enforced via legislation even with the possibility of aggravating the people whose actions threaten those morals. His theory is one of a...