Pornography and Censorship

By David Copp; Susan Wendell | Go to book overview

LORD MORRIS OF BORTH-Y-GEST:

I join, however, with those of your Lordships who affirm that the law is not impotent to convict those who conspire to corrupt public morals. The declaration of LORD MANSFIELD (see Jones v. Randall2) that

"Whatever is contrary, bonos mores est decorum, the principles of our law
prohibit, and the King's court, as the general censor and guardian of the public
manners, is bound to restrain and punish"

is echoed and finds modern expression in KENNY'S OUTLINES OF CRIMINAL LAW ( 17th Edn.) in the statement that agreements by two or more persons may be criminal if they are agreements to do acts which are outrageously immoral or else are in some way extremely injurious to the public. There are certain manifestations of conduct which are an affront to and an attack on recognised public standards of morals and decency, and which all welldisposed persons would stigmatise and condemn as deserving of punishment. The cases afford examples of the conduct of individuals which has been punished because it outraged public decency or because its tendency was to corrupt the public morals.

It is said that there is a measure of vagueness in a charge of conspiracy to corrupt public morals, and also that there might be peril of the launching of prosecutions in order to suppress unpopular or unorthodox views. My Lords, I entertain no anxiety on those lines. Even if accepted public standards may to some extent vary from generation to generation, current standards are in the keeping of juries who can be trusted to maintain the corporate good sense of the community and to discern attacks on values that must be preserved. If there were prosecutions which were not genuinely and fairly warranted, juries would be quick to perceive this. There could be no conviction unless twelve jurors were unanimous in thinking that the accused person or persons had combined to do acts which were calculated to corrupt public morals. My Lords, as time proceeds, our criminal law is more and more being codified. Though it may be that the occasions for presenting a charge such as that in count 1 will be infrequent, I concur in the view that such a charge is contained within the armour of the law and that the jury were in the present case fully entitled to decide the case as they did.

would dismiss the appeal.


NOTES
1.
In R. v. Delaval, ( 1763), 3 Burr. at p. 1438.
2.
( 1774), Lofft at p. 385. The quotation above exactly accords with the report; but it seems that for "est" the conjunction "et" should be read. The corresponding passage in the report in I Cowp. at p. 39 reads "for the law of England prohibits everything which is contra bonos mores; or it must be against principles of sound policy";.

-332-

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