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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Postgraduate Course: General Principles of Criminal Law (LAWS11363)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines the general principles of the substantive criminal law. It focuses in particular on three areas of criminal law doctrine. First, it examines criminal conduct: the kinds of action, omission and harmful results for which one may be held criminally responsible. Second, it examines criminal culpability: intentional and unintentional forms of fault, and the possibility of criminal liability without fault. And third, it examines criminal defences: justifying and excusing factors that defeat criminal liability. Throughout, the course also considers the application of these principles to problematic cases, and to particular areas of the law (such as the law of homicide).

In examining these issues, the course does not adopt the perspective of any single jurisdiction. Rather, it adopts a more general approach: examining issues that arise across different legal systems and traditions, and across different areas of the criminal law. To shed light on these issues, the course also introduces students to insights from comparative and theoretical criminal law scholarship.
Course description This course examines the general principles of criminal law: the principles that govern criminal liability in general, across different types and families of offence. It does not introduce these principles, or the legal rules relating to them, from the perspective of any single jurisdiction. Rather, as an advanced-level course for postgraduate students, it adopts a broader perspective: it tackles issues that are important across jurisdictional boundaries, and in different legal traditions. The course examines different ways of resolving these issues. It considers the results that these different approaches would yield when applied to particular cases and areas of the law. It also encourages students to think critically about the doctrines examined, and to consider how the criminal law might be developed or reformed.

More specifically, the course examines the following aspects of criminal law doctrine:

* Criminal conduct: the objective or ¿actus reus¿ elements of criminal offences. Topics include the kinds of conduct for which one may be held criminally responsible (such as acts, omissions and states of affairs); and liability for the harmful results of that conduct.
* Criminal culpability: the fault, subjective or ¿mens rea¿ elements of criminal offences. Topics include varieties of criminal intention; varieties of unintentional fault, such as recklessness and negligence; and the possibility of liability without fault, as in cases of strict and constructive liability.
* Criminal defences: factors that defeat liability for criminal offences. The course focuses particularly on exculpatory defences: justifications (or denials of wrongdoing) and excuses (or denials of culpability).

The course is taught through seminars. Reading lists will be provided for each seminar; students are expected to prepare by completing these in advance. Students are also expected to participate actively in seminar discussion. Seminars will not generally include lectures or long presentations from staff; rather, students will learn primarily through reflective and critical discussion of the seminar topics and readings. To reward student participation in seminar discussion, participation in class will be assessed. Students will also complete a final assessed essay, which will involve critical analysis and evaluation of a topic or group of topics from the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2017/18, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  35
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 4, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) * Formative assessment: individual written feedback, with general advice on essay writing to be given in class«br /»
* Class participation assessment, worth 20%: individual meeting with Course Organiser in the middle of the semester to discuss current marks and advise on potential improvement«br /»
* Final essay of 5,000 words worth 80%: full written feedback«br /»
Feedback * A short written essay, to be completed in the early weeks of the semester
* Formative feedback will also be provided on class participation (see above)
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Explain the general principles of criminal law ¿ specifically those relating to criminal conduct, culpability and defences ¿ from the perspective of a range of legal systems and traditions
  2. Critically evaluate relevant criminal law doctrines, informed by developments at the forefront of legal research
  3. Apply the relevant principles to particular areas of the criminal law, and to problematic cases
  4. Critically evaluate proposals for development of the criminal law
Reading List
Required readings will be identified in seminar reading lists. The following are recommended as introductory reading:

¿ A Ashworth and J Horder, Principles of Criminal Law, 7th edn. (2013), especially chapters 4 to 6
¿ G Fletcher, Basic Concepts of Criminal Law (1998)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Characteristic 3: generic cognitive skills

¿ Apply critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis to forefront issues, or issues that are informed by forefront developments in the subject/discipline/sector
¿ Identify, conceptualise and define new and abstract problems and issues
¿ Develop original and creative responses to problems and issues
¿ Critically review, consolidate and extend knowledge, skills, practices and thinking in a subject/discipline/sector
¿ Deal with complex issues and make informed judgements in situations in the absence of complete or consistent data/information

Characteristic 4: Communication, ICT and numeracy skills

¿ Communicate, using appropriate methods, to a range of audiences with different levels of knowledge/expertise
¿ Communicate with peers, more senior colleagues and specialists

Characteristic 5: Autonomy, accountability and working with others

¿ Exercise substantial autonomy and initiative in professional and equivalent activities
¿ Take responsibility for own work and/or significant responsibility for the work of others
KeywordsCriminal law; responsibility; liability; crime; criminal offences; criminal defences
Course organiserDr Andrew Cornford
Tel: (0131 6)51 4085
Course secretaryMs Olivia Hayes
Tel: (0131 6)50 9588
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