Sir John Salmond describes law as a body of principles
recognised and applied by the state in the administration of justice.
Compliance with the legal rules is compulsory and is imposed and governs all
members of society who must obey it; breaches of legal rules will result in
state sanctions and procedures; law can be implemented immediately; statutes
are given a commencement date. Precedents can be created in court rulings and
are binding for future cases in lower courts.
Austin argued that a law is a command from a sovereign whom
the population should obey and it is reinforced by the availability of a
sanction. This means that laws work because they are supported by threats such
as do not murder anyone or you will go to prison. In his view, a law is the expressed
wish of a sovereign and is therefore different to other commands such as those
from God or an employer. The sovereign is the person or body whom others
habitually obey and who does not obey anyone else.
Unlike law which is recognised by all of society, morality
can be individual to a person. Whereas laws are enforceable, morality may carry
social condemnation but it is the choice of individuals whether they want to
follow it or not. Britain has a very diverse society who of their own accord
follow different moral beliefs due to an individual’s morals often being rooted
in to religion or traditions and customs they choose to follow and the morals
differ from person to person due to different religions. Morals are not based
on what is legal and illegal but what is ethically right or wrong. Morals are
based more in customary practices, social, manners and religion and ethics.
However, despite the different religions, traditions or customs individuals may
have, all individuals are required to follow the same legal rules.
Both legal and moral rules have certain characteristics
which help to identify them and distinguish them from each other. This is
evident as Laws are enforced officially, created outwardly and largely concern
external human conduct. Moreover, laws can be traced back to a source such as
the law on Theft which is an outcome of the Theft Act 1968. On the other hand,
morality is not formally enforced, Morality has no sources, no officials and no
agencies capable of creating moral rules and is largely concerned with the
inner motives of individuals. Therefore, the origins of moral rules are
typically more difficult to trace as they are based on religious teachings in
the bible or the Koran. Additionally, unlike laws, morality can differ from
individual to individual due to the workings of human dignity and conscience,
where law is imposed on all members of society consequently making the impacts
of laws equal on everyone regardless of moral beliefs and religious values.
Furthermore, the enforcement of moral and legal rules differ, legal rules are
often enforced using sanctions such as in criminal law sentences can range from
a life-long prison sentence to an absolute discharge of all charges.
Despite the differences between moral and legal rules there
are also similarities such as both are prioritised with setting standards which
are essential for governing the behaviour of individuals.