Module code: LAW1029

Module Overview

This module is intended to introduce students to the study of English Criminal Law as an academic discipline, to identify the general principles of the common law and of statutory interpretation that will prepare them for the study of particular criminal offences, and to familiarise students with the elements of several English homicide 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 4 Semester One law modules on the LLB programmes. 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

WANG Bo (Schl of Law)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 4

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

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 12

Independent Learning Hours: 116

Lecture Hours: 22

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 such as intoxication and automatism

  • The common law defence of insanity

  • Principal offenders and accessorial liability

  • Inchoate liability 

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
School-timetabled exam/test MCQ 20
Examination 2 HOUR EXAM 80

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


The summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • A 2-hour, comprehensive exam, which counts for 80% of the module mark

  • A multiple choice question (MCQ) assessment, which counts for 20% of the module mark


Formative assessment and feedback

  • A 60-minute exam followed by in-class and written feedback


Module aims

  • To analyse the general principles of English criminal law.
  • To study the general principles for identifying conduct which the criminal law forbids, distinguishing crimes where causation must be proved and those crimes where the defendant's responsibility for particular circumstances will constitute punishable conduct.
  • To study the mental element in crime, including intention, recklessness, gross negligence (in manslaughter), and knowledge of circumstance elements.
  • To critically consider failure of proof defences, common law insanity, and partial defences to murder.
  • To understand and evaluate the rules governing complicity and inchoate offences
  • To critically evaluate legal judgments in criminal cases using tools for critical evaluation

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
003 Comprehend and critically engage with the sources of criminal law, particularly common law case reports and Acts of Parliament KCPT
004 Critically analyse the competing normative principles, policy concerns, and values which inform criminal law and its development KCPT
005 Analyse major tendencies within scholarly discussions of criminal law and reform proposals KCPT
001 Explain, analyse and demonstrate understanding of the general principles, concepts and history of criminal law and criminal responsibility KC
002 Analyse and demonstrate a critical understanding of the evolving law of murder, various mens rea doctrines, defences, complicity, and inchoate liability KCT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

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 model the critical evaluation of criminal law judgments. 

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 workshops, either engaging in liability analysis or performing a critical evaluation of a legal judgment. Typically the workshop groups will each contain 28 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:

  • 11 x 2-hour substantive subject-specific 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)

  • 6 x 2-hour workshops, 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
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: LAW1029

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Law with Criminology LLB (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law LLB (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Law with International Relations 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 2020/1 academic year.