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2010/1 Module Catalogue
 Module Code: LAWM052 Module Title: CRIMINAL LAW
Module Provider: School of Law Short Name: LAWM052
Level: M Module Co-ordinator: BLAKE LW Mr (Schl of Law)
Number of credits: 30 Number of ECTS credits: 15
Module Availability
Assessment Pattern

Components of Assessment


Percentage Weighting (%)


3,000 word coursework



Three-hour examination








Module Overview
Module Aims

The module aims to provide students with an understanding of the practical operation of criminal law and its sometimes contradictory underpinning theories. 

Students address such questions as: 

What are the components of a criminal act?
What constitutes a guilty mind? 
What crimes can be committed against persons and how are they regulated? 
What crimes can be committed against property and how are they regulated?

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this module, students are able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the nature and operation of English criminal law in context and the ethical, philosophical and political influences on English criminal law;
  • Demonstrate a conceptual understanding of the doctrines and concepts which underpin English criminal law;
  • Discuss critically crimes against individuals and critically assess what constitutes guilt;
  • Discuss critically crimes against the property of individuals and critically assess what constitutes guilt;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the concept of causation as an element of consequence crimes;
  • Assess the probable and actual influence of the Human Rights Act 1998 on the development of the criminal law;
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of possible defences;
  • Apply acquired knowledge to complex problems, demonstrating both self-direction and originality in tackling and solving such problems and a critical awareness of current issues and new insights in Criminal law:
  • Demonstrate a conceptual understanding that enables the student to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in criminal law.
Module Content
  • The sources of the criminal law (both common law and statutory);
  • Theories and justifications of criminal liability;
  • The identification and significance of offence elements;
  • How criminal statutes are interpreted;
  • Offences of strict liability;
  • The fault requirement and the mental element of criminal liability;
  • Criminal conduct – acts and omissions;
  • Causation of consequences as an element of offence liability;
  • The requirement of coincidence of the actus reus the mens rea of a crime;
  • General defences: automatism, insanity, duress by threats, and duress of circumstances, necessity and self defence;
  • The significance of consent or lack of consent as an aspect of criminal liability
  • Factors varying criminal liability: intoxication and mistake
  • Homicide: murder and manslaughter (including diminished responsibility);
  • Non-fatal offences against the person;
  • Theft Acts 1968 and 1978;
  • Criminal Damage Act 1971
Methods of Teaching/Learning
2½ hours per week (1 two-hour lecture and a seminar fortnightly)

In the seminars students will engage with topics of current interest in criminal law and in doing so explore the practical application of concepts discussed in lectures and the difficulties that may arise in practical situations, including ones involving the actual and desirable boundaries of the criminal law. Students will be asked to research current issues intensively and prepare presentations on set topics. They should also be prepared to answer questions raised by other students. Problems arising from practical situations will also be discussed and the construction of criminal liability should be explored and critically analysed by students.

The method of teaching will be by lectures and seminars. The lectures will introduce the students to the subject areas and provide an overview of the syllabus, thus enabling the students to understand the basic principles and where to find the first sources. Students will then conduct research to prepare for seminar discussion. The questions used in seminar discussion will consider detailed issues and topics and these media are more suitable than lectures for this method of learning. Seminars will emphasise the need for fact management, precision in the use of definitions, and will seek to develop the students' ability to solve problems and to construct arguments using law. The students will be expected to have consulted law reports, journals, textbooks, and statutory provisions and to apply the information thus gathered to specific discussion of questions and factual problems. Proposals for law reform will also be addressed, as and when they become topical. Students will be expected to read quality newspapers and other periodicals. Each student will be given at least one opportunity during the year to prepare and deliver a presentation on a set topic during a seminar session, and to respond to questions raised by other seminar participants on the topic. This presentation will be formatively assessed by the seminar leader and feedback given to the student on his/her performance.

Selected Texts/Journals

Expected purchase 

Smith and Hogan, Criminal Law (OUP,
12th ed, 2008
Glazebrook (Ed.), Blackstone's Statutes on Criminal Law (OUP, 18th ed, 2008) 

Background Reading 
Allen, Criminal Law (OUP, 9th ed, 2007) 
Ashworth, Principles of Criminal Law (OUP, 5th ed, 2006) 
Card, Cross, Jones, Criminal Law (OUP, 18th ed, 2008) 
Clarkson, Understanding Criminal Law (Sweet & Maxwell, 4th ed, 2004) 
Heaton: Criminal Law (OUP, 2nd ed, 2006) 
Herring, Criminal Law, Text, Cases and Materials (OUP, 2nd ed, 2006) 
Simester and Sullivan, Criminal Law – Theory and Doctrine (Hart, 3rd ed, 2007) 

Reference only: 
Archbold, Criminal Pleading, Evidence, and Practice (Sweet and Maxwell, 2005 edition) 
Clarkson & Keating, Criminal Law, Text and Materials (Sweet & Maxwell, 6th ed, 2007) 
Dine, Gobert & Wilson, Cases and Materials on Criminal Law (OUP, 5th ed, 2006) 
Elliot & Wood, Cases and Materials on Criminal Law (Sweet & Maxwell, 9th ed, 2006) 
Lacey, Wells & Quick, Reconstructing Criminal Law, Text and Materials ( Cambridge , 3rd ed, 2003) 
Ormerod et al., Blackstone's Criminal Practice 2009 (OUP, 2008) 
Ormerod, Smith’s Law of Theft (OUP, 9th ed, 2007)

Academic journals:

Law Journal 
Criminal Law Review 
Journal of Criminal Law 
King’s College Law Journal 
Law Quarterly Review 
Modern Law Review 
Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 
Statute Law Review

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