Module code: LAW2074

Module Overview

This module is intended to outline and critically examine English Criminal Law as an academic discipline, and to identify and evaluate the general principles of the common law, and of statutory interpretation, which will prepare them for the study of particular criminal offences.

Integration with core legal skills and critical method training

The module also shares ten one hours ‘Justice, legal systems and method’ lectures with the other Level 5 Semester One law modules for JD Pathway students. These cover an introduction to the following areas:

Legal method: Introduction to the study of law; Use of sources: Authority and precedent; Interpretation; Research skills; Legal writing; Academic sources and critical analysis.

History of the English legal system; Comparative overview of legal systems; Introduction to common law and common law method; Introduction to critical legal method and theories of justice

These teaching sessions will be fully integrated into the study tasks and activities in the substantive study of this module during this Semester, and inform the learning outcome below. These sessions are delivered in collaboration with the Library and learning resources team to demonstrate the practical elements of legal skills and research.



Module provider

School of Law

Module Leader

TAGGART Christopher (Schl of Law)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

JACs code: M211

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • Normative principles of criminal law and justice

  • Sources of English criminal law (both common law and statutory)

  • Determining the procedural history of a criminal case

  • Understanding criminal law case reports

  • The distinction between general principles and specific criminal offences

  • The difference between questions of fact and questions of law

  • Stare decisis in the criminal law

  • Principles of statutory interpretation in the context of criminal law

  • Criminal conduct, acts and omissions

  • Legal and factual causation

  • Involuntary conduct (automatism), and intoxication

  • The mental element in crime, including doctrines of direct and oblique intention and recklessness.

  • The coincidence of the ‘mens rea’ and the ‘actus reus’ of a crime

  • Failure of proof defences

  • General defences: insanity, duress, necessity, and public and private defence

  • Principal offenders and accessorial liability

  • Inchoate offences

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination 2 HOUR EXAM 100

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment addresses all learning outcomes listed above.

The assessment method for each module has been selected to test a variety of key skills, competences and outcomes as required by QAA. As such, assessment method cannot be changed. Reasonable adjustment may be made on application subject to ALS approval AND only where such adjustment still allows for the required skills, key competences and outcomes to be assessed at an equivalent level.

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate a good level of:

  • Identification of Issues

students should demonstrate the ability to identify the legal issues raised by the questions

  • Clear statements of relevant legal standards

students should demonstrate the ability to clearly and accurately communicate relevant legal standards

  • Synthesis and application

Students should be able to synthesise and apply relevant legal doctrines to specific facts, noting any gaps and inconsistencies in the law, and reach plausible conclusions about the liability of various parties.

  • Statutory Interpretation

Students should demonstrate a working knowledge of judicial canons and practices regarding the interpretation of criminal statutes.

  • Comprehension of Case Reports

Students should demonstrate the ability to read and understand criminal law case reports, analyse judicial reasoning, and trace the evolution of the common law over time

  • Critical Evaluation

Students should demonstrate the ability to critically evaluate legal doctrines, procedural rules, and canons of interpretation in light of normative principles.

The summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • A 2 hour, comprehensive exam, which counts for 100% of the module mark

Formative assessment and feedback

  • A 45 minute exam followed by in-class and written feedback


Module aims

  • To analyse the general principles of English criminal law
  • To appreciate the conduct which the criminal law forbids, distinguishing those crimes where causation must be proved and those crimes where the defendant's responsibility for particular circumstances will constitute punishable conduct
  • To assess the mental element in crime, including intention, recklessness, gross negligence (in manslaughter) and a brief outline of strict liability
  • To critically consider general defences and failure of proof defences.
  • To understand and evaluate the rules governing complicity and inchoate offences

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
1 Explain and analyse understanding of the general principles, concepts and history of criminal law and criminal responsibility KC
2 Analyse and demonstrate a critical understanding of the content of several important categories of criminal offence KCT
3 Use and critically engage with the sources of criminal law, including common law, statute, EU and international law KCPT
4 Explain, identify and critically engage with relevant defences KC
5 Critically analyse the competing policy concerns and values which inform criminal law and its development KCPT
6 Analyse major tendencies within scholarly discussions of criminal law and policy proposals KCPT
7 Critically apply knowledge of the primary and secondary legal authorities to solve novel problems and answer essay questions about the competing goals and content of criminal law CPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 117

Lecture Hours: 17

Seminar Hours: 16

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy follows an enquiry-based learning approach.

Lectures will introduce the topics, give a general overview of the principles of each topic, give guidance on how to analyse the law and research those topics and in some instances give specific examples of the law and its effect. 

The lectures will not give a full description of, or appreciation of, the law. In order to learn in greater depth and breadth, such as to satisfy the learning outcomes, students will answer questions of some complexity in the 2-hour seminars, either resolving legal problems or performing a critical analysis of the law. Typically the seminar groups will each contain 16 students, who will work in small groups to research the law and present answers, demonstrating self-direction and originality, of both approach and resolution. Students should be prepared to field questions during their presentations, either from their tutor or from fellow students, and to follow up the presentations with group discussion and feedback. Presentations may be required in any form, including advocacy for a specific party in a problem question or argument for or against a specific proposition.

For efficiency and ease of understanding, teaching of critical legal skills may be blended with the substantive subject-specific lectures.        

The learning and teaching methods would typically comprise:

  • A 1 hour session introducing the enquiry-based learning method used in this module and how it should be approached in the context of criminal law

  • 11 x 1 hour substantive subject-specific lectures

  • 1 hour feedback session on the formative assessment

  • 2 x 1 hour revision lectures

  • 2 hours of lectures on critical legal skills (see “Module Overview” section above for further detail)

  • 0.5 hour training in legal research skills, delivered by the Library and learning resources team (see “Module Overview” section above for further detail)

  • 8 x 2 hour seminars, as described above


Note: as this module is assessed by examination, the formative assessment will also be by examination, which may be held in place of one of the substantive subject-specific lectures.  

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

Reading list for CRIMINAL LAW I :

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Law (JD Pathway) LLB (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2018/9 academic year.