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Hart-Devlin Debate - Essay Example

However, the law is not against the private lives of people and the activities they undertake in private. Therefore, a law cannot be imposed that interferes with the private lives of people. The report by the committee sparked a reaction from Patrick Devlin. Devlin in his discussion on “the enforcement of morals” argued that criminal law is not only meant to protect individuals but the entire society. Therefore, if people are engaged in activities that are against the society norms should be criminated. He further argued that criminal law should not only protect criminal activities that directly affect people, but rather should protect society from adverse effects imposed by individuals both in public and in private (Cane 22). Herbert Hart reacted against the argument of Devlin in a radio broadcast. Hart argued with regard to the “harm principle” by J. S Mills. He argued that the only reason in which power can be correctly exercised over any individual in society against his will is, to ensure no harm imposed to others by the individual (Cane 23). An argumentative debate between the two individuals ensued, both of them believing their side of the argument to be reasonable. Devlin argued that the society supposed to be united by legal and moral conducts. Therefore, any actions that jeopardizes society’s norms should be criminated (Cane 24). The society supposed to impose its morality so that cultural values and believes can be maintained. Hart argued against this argument claiming that Devlin did not provide factual evidence of his arguments. Hart claimed that society norms are widely used; therefore, using them to deny a group of people to conduct their private activities is not respecting the morals of individuals. Some contributions made regarding the subject of law and morals of society (Cane 25). Therefore, in order to establish a valid argument of the case standards ought to be set and difference between harm and moral standards should be established. In addition, a relationship between law and morality should also be discussed in details. The debate sparked by the report established by wolfenden committee. The committee was established to put in consideration the law governing prostitution and male homosexual behavior. Nonetheless, the debate that ensued concentrated on the subject of sexual conduct and morals. The committee was discussing the issue of criminal activities with regard to homosexuality. The debate concentrated on criminal law and did not put in consideration other forms of law (Cane 26). The society plays a significant role to play with regard to ensuring the community and the country at large behave accordingly. According to Devlin, the actions of individuals can affect the outlook of the entire society. Therefore, when lawmakers are developing laws they should put into consideration a person’s liberty (Cane 27). In addition, technological advancement is changing overtime; therefore, it is reasonable enough for the society to come to terms with the changes. Devlin’s view After the committee published its report, Devlin was quick to respond to the report through a public lecture. Devlin argued that morals and laws should go hand in hand. Behavior of an individual does not only affect the individual alone but the entire society (Cane 28). Therefore, legalizing homosexuality is offensive to the society as it goes against the moral standards of the society. the society’s cultural values should be protected by the law. Devlin’s argument meant to protect the society through the ...Show more


Lord Wolfenden chaired a meeting in 1957 that recommended the existence of homosexuality activities in private. The chairperson suggested that as long as their activities remained private they should not be criminalized (Cane 21)…
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Hart-Devlin Debate essay example
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