Criminal liability Sample

Indeed, in Shaw v DPP 1961, the defendant was convicted of conspiracy to corrupt public morals when he took it upon himself to create a 'Prostitute's Directory'. Viscount Simonds, who was presiding over the case, explained that it was the supreme purpose of the law to protect the moral welfare of society. He went on to say that the courts have residual power to deal with these threats in circumstances for which Parliament has not legislated for.

Therefore, it may be seen that it is very important for the law to uphold the moral values of society as judges are willing to go beyond their task of simple 'finding and applying' the law, and into the more controversial area of making law, something which they are normally hesitant about doing. The very essence of criminal liability, mens rea, is based on the concept of moral blameworthiness. Without mens rea there can be no criminal liability. Similarly, there is also evidence that civil law upholds moral values.

Liability for negligence arises where the defendant has breached his duty of care to his neighbour, the moral connection and fault being that it consists of falling below a standard of conduct expected of the reasonable person in those circumstances. Indeed, the use of the 'reasonable person' appears time and time again in all areas of law and is bound to inject some moral standpoints into all areas of law, those of the reasonable person! Also, is an established moral principle that we should keep our promises and it is possible to sue for breech of contract.

Justice Denning even invented a new equitable remedy, namely, Promissory Estoppel, in Hightress House 1956, to hold us to our promises. On the other side of the coin are situations where the law is not concerned with moral at all. For example in case of strict liability, the mens rea element of the offence is completely ignored, resulting in a defendant who has no moral blameworthiness whatsoever can still be found liable on the fact of actus reus alone.

For example, in Callow v Tillstone 1900, a butcher was convicted of selling meat unfit for public consumption even though it had been inspected and approved by a qualified vet beforehand. Here though, the law is concerned solely with maximising the protection of the general public, so moral will have no input at all. Sometimes, laws are there to make us act more responsibly. Both drivers and passengers are now legally bound to wear seatbelts whilst in a motor vehicle.

This is not because it is considered immoral behaviour. One particularly good case to illustrate where there is no connection between the law upholding morals, is R v Somerset County Council ex parte Fewings 1995. In a judicial review it was found that the county council had no right to base its management of the land on moral considerations after it banned stag hunting on the land that it owned.