Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: Criminal Law A: Harm, Offence and Criminalisation (LAWS10253)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course is concerned with questions of the appropriate parameters of the criminal law: on what basis can the criminal law intervene? The course will consist of an advanced exploration of theoretical justifications for criminalisation, such as the harm principle, and apply those discussions about the legitimacy of the criminal law to specific contexts. This will include an examination of issues such as possession of drugs, hate crimes, prostitution and trafficking, the extra territorial use of criminal law, terrorism, obscenity offences, domestic violence and sexual offences.
Course description Seminars take the form of an open discussion of the seminar topic. Reading lists will be available from the course website; students are expected to prepare by completing the required reading in advance of seminars. The hand-out includes questions around which the seminar is structured. Participation in class discussion is expected. Experience shows that seminars are at their most helpful (and enjoyable!) when as many people as possible are well prepared and participate actively.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Criminal Law (Ordinary) (LAWS08142)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Spaces on this course are allocated as part of the Law Honours Course Allocation process. Places are generally only available to students who must take Law courses. To request a space on this course, please email
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesThis course is only open to visiting students coming through a direct exchange with the School of Law (including Erasmus students on a Law-specific Exchange). Exchange students outside of Law and independent study abroad students are not eligible to enrol in this course, with no exceptions.

**Please note that 3rd year Law courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces.**
Priority will be given to students studying on exchange within the Law department, and it is highly unlikely that there will be additional spaces for general exchange students & independent study abroad students to enrol; we will look into this on a case-by-case basis in September/January. Visiting students are advised to bear in mind that enrolment in specific courses can never be guaranteed, and you may need to be flexible in finding alternatives in case your preferred courses have no available space.

These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 5,000-word essay (100%)
Feedback A formative assessment will be set and circulated at the beginning of semester, with a deadline of mid-November. Feedback will be returned at the last class of the year. This will give students adequate time to reflect on and learn from this feedback, in good time for the submission of the summative assessment in mid-January.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the theoretical concepts and principles concerning the justification of criminalisation.
  2. Be familiar with and be able to criticise the primary and secondary literature in this area.
  3. Be able to evaluate critically the debates about criminalisation within the particular legal contexts studied.
  4. Be capable of conducting legal research to an advanced level and of communicating this clearly in oral and written form.
Reading List
There is no prescribed text for the course, though many sessions will refer to Douglas Husak's Overcriminalization: The Limits of the Criminal Law (2008), copies of which are available in the library (including an electronic copy). In addition, the following general texts may be of assistance for specific seminars:

1. A Ashworth, Principles of Criminal Law, 7th edn (2013)
2. CMV Clarkson, Understanding Criminal Law, 4th edn (2005)
3. GH Gordon, The Criminal Law of Scotland, 3rd edn by MGA Christie (two vols, 2000 and 2001)
4. J Herring, Criminal Law: Texts, Cases and Materials, 6th edn (2014)
5. AP Simester et al, Criminal Law: Theory and Doctrine, 5th edn (2013)
6. V Tadros, Criminal Responsibility (2005)
7. WA Wilson, Central Issues in Criminal Theory (2002)

Students may also find it helpful to consult the Scottish Criminal Case Reports for details of recent developments in Scots criminal law, along with relevant journals such as the Criminal Law Review. In addition to UK-based journals, the following may also be of interest (all available electronically):

- Criminal Law and Philosophy
- New Criminal Law Review (previously the Buffalo Criminal Law Review)
- Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Sharon Cowan
Tel: (0131 6)50 8000
Course secretaryMiss Lauren McCrory-Irving
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information