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Study information

Criminal Law

Module titleCriminal Law
Module codeLAW3003B
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Rachel Gimson ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Crimes are the laws with the most serious consequences: commit a crime, and you could go to prison, even for the rest of your life. So pervasive is the criminal law that most people who have never studied law before are already aware of a range of crimes. In this module, we start by drawing upon your background awareness of criminal law, or at least your sense of right and wrong, and from there build a methodical knowledge and useable understanding of some of the major crimes found in the law of England and Wales. (No prior knowledge of the law is needed or expected.) This module is an opportunity for you to explore the legal details and moral underpinnings of crimes such as murder, rape, theft and criminal damage, and the defences which may be available to those who commit them. You will be encouraged to adopt a critical attitude towards the criminal law, reflecting on why the law is written and implemented as it is, and what difficulties are encountered when the legal principles are applied in practice.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to make you fully conversant with the main criminal law offences; aware of the complexity of definitional issues; aware of the major theoretical debates within the field of criminal law: and able to argue with confidence on relevant ethical and doctrinal issues.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate in-depth understanding of the general concepts and principles governing the criminal law, their derivation and the various theories that encapsulate and attempt to systematise them
  • 2. Possess detailed knowledge of the law governing the offences and defences covered on the module, including areas of growth or areas in need of reform.
  • 3. Develop understanding of the importance of non-legal/contextual materials, including academic commentaries, and use them effectively to produce an academic argument.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Demonstrate detailed knowledge and understanding of a range of legal rules, concepts, values and principles, and be able to explain and discuss the relationships among them;
  • 5. Identify and apply the relevant law to make an informed judgement about the merits and relevance of particular information and make reasoned choices between alternative solutions or arguments;
  • 6. Communicate technical legal information and argument effectively and concisely, in a manner appropriate to the discipline;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Take responsibility for own learning and manage time efficiently in preparing for learning activities, and to work independently within a limited time frame, to complete a specified task.
  • 8. Identify, retrieve and use efficiently a range of resources with minimal guidance;
  • 9. Work effectively with, and meet obligations to, others.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Homicide part 1
  • Homicide part 2
  • Non-fatal offences
  • Sexual offences
  • Theft, Robbery and Burglary
  • Criminal damage
  • Defences
  • Inchoate Offences
  • Complicity

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity5522 x 2.5 hour seminars
Guided Independent study151Individual reading and seminar preparation
Guided Independent study94Assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan500 words1-8Individual iwritten feedback (with oral feedback upon request)

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay502000 words1-8Individual written feedback (with oral feedback upon request)
Examination (take-home, open book)502 hours intended duration (within a 24-hour submission window)1-8Individual written feedback (with oral feedback upon request)

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay Essay (2,000 words)1-8August / September reassessment period
Examination (take-home, open book)Examination (take-home, open book; same as above)1-8August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

A. P. Simester, J. R. Spencer, G. R. Sullivan and G. J. Virgo, Criminal Law: Theory and Doctrine, 5th ed. (Hart Publications, 2013)

J. Herring,  Criminal Law: Text, Cases and Materials, 4th ed. (OUP, 2010)

Additional reading: 

D. D. Ormerod,  Smith and Hogan’s Criminal Law, 13th  ed. (OUP, 2011)

A. Ashworth and J. Horder, Principles of Criminal Law, 7th  ed. (OUP, 2013)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Key words search

Criminal Law

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date