public morals

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The basic moral structure of society. Judges have occasionally said that they retain a general overriding discretion to punish as crimes behaviour that is destructive of public morals but it is not at all clear to what extent they should do so. The abolition of the crimes of homosexual conduct and suicide was based on the assumption that matters of morals that do not directly harm other people should not be the subject of criminal legislation. Cases: Shaw v DPP [1962] AC 220 (HL); Knuller (Publishing, Printing and Promotions) Ltd v DPP [1973] AC 435 (HL). See also corruption of public morals.

Subjects: Law.

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