Obituary: Lord Devlin
Wednesday 02 September 1992
Extending outwards from the evidence that he had given before the Wolfenden Comittee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, to which he had been requested to speak as a Queen's Bench judge in favour of reform, Devlin there set out his responses to three questions which continue to attract the attention of any secular society: ought there to be a public morality, or ought morals always be a matter for private judgement; if society has a right to pass moral judgements, has it also the right to use the law to enforce them; and if so, ought the law to be used in all cases or only some, and if the latter on what grounds should it distinguish?
Characteristically, Devlin's answers were both assured and modest. What makes a society, he averred, is a community of ideas, and ideas about the way its members should behave are its morals. Every society, he wrote, has a moral structure. However, how to define that moral structure was another matter. While he saw the values of Christianity in general and the Church of England in particular as providing convenient rules of thumb for Britain, he remained sceptically convinced that this was merely a convenient historical accident. In this essay as in much else in his life Devlin prefigured, at a time when Britain's diversity was less well recognised than it is today, many of those dilemmas of pluralism that plague makers of public policy.
- 1 Kim Jong-un shows off airport designed by architect he likely had executed
- 2 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 3 Why it matters 26 million people have changed their Facebook profile picture to a rainbow flag
- 4 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 5 Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L James's Twitter Q&A didn't go exactly as planned
Michael Douglas regrets 'embarrassing' Catherine Zeta-Jones with oral sex comments
Kim Jong-un shows off airport designed by architect he likely had executed
Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
Ex-Scientologist Carmen Llwyelyn blasts 'cult' and her treatment after divorce with Jason Lee
Tunisian builder has been hailed a hero after knocking gunman to the ground with roof tiles
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Extend Right To Buy to tenants of private landlords, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn says
David Cameron struck double blow in his hopes to win Britain a new EU deal
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...
£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...