Lord Ellenborough's Law of Humanity and the Legal Duty to Relieve Destitution

37 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2018

See all articles by Gerry F Whyte

Gerry F Whyte

Trinity College (Dublin) - School of Law

Date Written: March 23, 2018


The background mood music to my paper is the perception of an increasing chasm between the social classes in western liberal democracies that has arguably contributed to the British vote on Brexit, the election of President Trump and an increase in support for both far right and far left parties in Europe. In my opinion, this development is due at least in part to a perceived increase in social inequality in recent decades. In my paper, I wish to consider to what extent, if at all, the Irish legal order enables the judiciary to address the more egregrious effects of this inequality that result in people experiencing significant deprivation. To put the Irish situation in context, I look at the experience of the English judiciary in recent times when confronted with cases of destitution. My conclusion is that Irish law certainly contains within it legal principles that the courts could deploy to address destitution but I also tentatively speculate, based admittedly on very fragmentary evidence thus far, that Irish judges may be more hesitant in this context than judges of some other comparable legal orders.

Keywords: Law of Humanity, Destitution, Ireland, Judges, legal principles, social inequality, western democracies, JM Kelly Memorial Lecture

Suggested Citation

Whyte, Gerry F, Lord Ellenborough's Law of Humanity and the Legal Duty to Relieve Destitution (March 23, 2018). UCD Working Papers in Law, Criminology & Socio-Legal Studies Research Paper No. 0418. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3147647 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3147647

Gerry F Whyte (Contact Author)

Trinity College (Dublin) - School of Law ( email )

College Green
Dublin 2

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