Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1997


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, two of England's most respected jurists engaged in an on-going debate that would take the legal world by storm. The debate concerned whether and to what extent morality should be reflected in the law and was instigated by the publication of the Wolfenden Report, a study presented to Parliament as it considered whether to repeal certain antisodomy laws in Great Britain. On the one hand was Lord Patrick Devlin, a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary later elevated to the House of Lords, Britain's highest court. Devlin opposed the conclusions contained in the Wolfenden Report and supported the continuation of the antisodomy laws. On the other hand was H.L.A. Hart, Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford, who believed that the use of the criminal law to enforce popular morality, in particular sexual morality, was inappropriate. For many years, the two men led the public discussion in England and abroad about the efficacy and jurisprudential propriety of morality legislation, sometimes invoking novel arguments and sometimes invoking theories that were centuries old.



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