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CO5119:03 Business Law SUBJECT MATERIALS >> SCHOOL OF LAW JAMES COOK UNIVERSITY Accessibility. In almost every country in the world, ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’. What this means is that the law will apply to you whether you knew about it or not. However, while most people will accept that outcome where they have had the opportunity to find out what the law is and how it operates in their circumstances—either directly, or indirectly (by obtaining legal advice from a government body or by consulting a lawyer)—they will invariably object if the law is not readily available so they cannot find out what they should do. In most countries the presence of the internet has greatly increased the accessibility of the law. In Australia, for example, all levels of government and all courts have web pages and they routinely include all new laws and all new court decisions on them so that the law is readily available. See, for example the range of both cases and Acts of parliament that are available through the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales website at: 9
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CO5119:03 Business Law SUBJECT MATERIALS >> SCHOOL OF LAW JAMES COOK UNIVERSITY 1.3 The Purposes of Law Law serves many purposes in society—mainly to ensure that society as a whole behaves in an orderly and reasonable way. It does this, in many cases, by balancing competing individual and community interests. Left alone, it is arguable that mankind, as individuals, will always behave in the way that will maximise their own best interests. However, in any society the things that will maximise one person’s interests may come at some cost to the interests of others. Therefore, maximising the price that you receive for your goods will also maximise what I have to pay for them. Similarly, your freedom of expression may infringe my right not to have my reputation brought into question by something that you say about me. Therefore, the criminal law (that which punishes criminal behaviour) and the civil law (that which governs our personal, business and property rights, duties and responsibilities) both try to balance rights and responsibilities and freedoms and duties to allow society to function in the way that best suits it. The law, therefore, serves a number of purposes, including: Protecting life, property, reputation and other basic civil, political and economic rights; Protecting the weak and disadvantaged from exploitation; Protecting and preserving property; Protecting and preserving the environment; Providing basic rules of personal and commercial behaviour; Protecting society against anti-social and disruptive behaviour; Protecting society’s moral, social, economic and religious values; Protecting society against abuse of power by government and other officials; Punishing wrongdoers who are guilty of criminal and other similar prohibited behaviour; Preventing personal, business and other disputes from arising;
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