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Unit information: Criminal Law and Criminal Justice in 2017/18

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Criminal Law and Criminal Justice
Unit code LAWDM0086
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Cian Murphy
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This course develops a contextual and critical approach to understanding the criminal law and criminal justice. In particular, it focuses on the different ways in which we try to make sense of criminal law and criminal justice, including the structure of criminal liability (inchoate offences, complicity and defences), and specific areas such as violence, homicide and property offences.

Students should be advised that it is most appropriate for students who have not previously studied English/Welsh Criminal Law.

Intended learning outcomes

The unit aims to develop an understanding of criminal law and develop a contextual approach to the study of crime, criminal law and criminal process, along with associated socio-political and theoretical perspectives. After completing the unit, students will be able to:

  • display a general knowledge of the principles of English criminal law and process,
  • appreciate the contextual background to the construction of crime, criminal law and the workings of the criminal justice system,
  • research further material in the field,
  • apply this to the solution of legal problems and the discussion of legal issues, and
  • engage in critical analysis of the law from informed socio-political and theoretical perspectives.

Students should be able to:

  • state the law accurately,
  • apply legal principles to problem case scenarios,
  • to think critically about ways in which the law could be reformed.

Teaching details

This unit is taught by way of 20-30 lectures, 10 two-hour seminars and 2 assessment preparation and feedback sessions. Lectures are delivered jointly to students on the related undergraduate unit.

Assessment Details

Summative: a 2000 word essay (33%) will assess the candidate's ability to research a topic within the scope of this unit. The remaining Intended Learning Outcomes will be assessed in a 3 hour written examination (67%). Both assessments will assess all of the Intended Learning Outcomes for this unit in the context of topics selected by the examiners.

Formative: students should do one formative assessment (this will usually be 1 x 1500 word essay).

Reading and References

  • A Ashworth, Principles of Criminal Law (6th edition 2009, Oxford University Press)
  • N Lacey, C Wells & O Quick Reconstructing Criminal Law: Text and Materials (4th edition 2010, Cambridge University Press)
  • J. Herring, Criminal Law: Text, Cases and Materials (OUP: 2010),
  • C M V Clarkson and H M Keating Criminal Law – Texts and Materials (7th edition 2010, Sweet and Maxwell)
  • Blackstone's Statutes on Criminal Law 2011-2012 ed., Peter Glazebrook (OUP)

Further reading will be indicated on your unit guide.