Postgraduate Course: Current Issues in Criminal Law (LAWS11364)
|School||School of Law
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This course examines current issues, debates and trends in criminal law. It introduces students to important developments in criminal law and the criminal process; to the controversies and debates surrounding these developments; and to the broader changes that they represent in the criminal justice field.
The course begins by exploring questions of criminalisation: the changing scope of the criminal law, and debates over what conduct should and should not be made criminal. It then turns to examine developments in the law relating to criminal procedure and evidence; and finally to sentencing and other consequences of criminal conviction. The precise content of the course will change year on year, in response to new developments. However, at least some topics from each of these areas will be covered in any given academic year.
This course examines current issues, debates and trends in criminal law. It introduces students to a range of important recent developments in criminal law and the criminal process, and to the controversies and debates surrounding those developments. The course does not introduce the basics of the criminal law and its operation: it presumes that students are familiar with these. Instead, it focuses on recent changes within this field that are important or controversial, and that illustrate broader debates and trends. Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to think critically about these developments, and to evaluate proposals for reform of the law.
Because this course focuses on issues of current importance, its precise content is not fixed and may change slightly from year to year. However, in any given year, the course will examine at least some topics from each of the following areas:
» Criminalisation: changes in the scope of the substantive criminal law, and what conduct is and is not criminal (or should and should not be criminal). Possible seminar topics include the allegedly dramatic expansion of the criminal law in many jurisdictions; the influence of security on the scope of the criminal law; new forms of criminalisation, such as civil preventive orders; and debates over the proper basis for criminal legislation.
» The criminal process: changes to the law governing criminal procedure and evidence, and the rights of suspects and accused persons in criminal cases. Possible seminar topics include procedural rights and the presumption of innocence; varieties of evidence in criminal cases, their admissibility and exclusion; and guilty pleas and other measures designed to reduce emphasis on criminal trials.
» Sentencing and sanctions: changes in the types of sentence and sanction available to criminal courts, and to the legal consequences of criminal conviction. Possible seminar topics include preventive detention measures, such as indeterminate or post-sentence detention; criminal records and their implications; and other post-sentence and ancillary restrictions on convicted offenders.
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)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Feedback/Feedforward Hours 4,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
Individual written feedback, with general feedback and advice to be given in class.
Final essay of 5,000 worth 100%: full written 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
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Understand and explain a broad range of current issues relating to criminal law, procedure and sanctions
- Explain the relationship of these issues to broader debates and trends within criminal law and criminal justice
- Critically evaluate relevant legal rules, informed by developments at the forefront of legal research
- Apply critical insights to proposals for further development of the criminal law.
|Required readings will be identified in seminar reading lists. For an indication of the kinds of issues to be examined in this course, these articles will be useful:|
* A Ashworth, ¿Is the Criminal Law a Lost Cause?¿ (2000) 116 Law Quarterly Review 225
* A Ashworth and L Zedner, Defending the Criminal Law: Reflections on the Changing Character of Crime, Procedure and Sanctions (2008) 2 Criminal Law and Philosophy 21
|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
|Keywords||Criminal law; criminalisation; criminal process; criminal procedure; evidence; sentencing; sanction
|Course organiser||Dr Andrew Cornford
Tel: (0131 6)51 4085
|Course secretary||Ms Ruth Johnston
Tel: (0131 6)50 9094