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Key Themes in Criminal Justice - LAW00020I

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Patrick Gallimore
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20 to Summer Term 2019-20

Module aims

This module provides a sound basis for understanding the criminal justice system as a set of interacting institutions and the norms and value systems that underpin its operation. The module will provide opportunities to critically engage with the moral claims invoked when the prosecution and punishment of individuals is undertaken. You will consider the extent to which the system represents an attempt to determine the truth of allegations, the protection of liberty and the infliction of appropriate or just punishments while also engaging with questions as to the extent to which criminal justice procedures and practices can be said to be fair or just. In addition you will explore the extent to which these values can be said to assist or undermine each other. During the module you will therefore have an opportunity to consider the practice of policing, of pre-trial and trial procedures and practices (including the application of some of the rules of evidence in criminal cases) and aspects of post-trial decision making such as the sentencing of offenders. You will also consider alternatives to criminal prosecution and therefore with questions of the appropriateness or suitability of criminal trial. While the module will involve identification and understanding of the rules and procedures of the criminal justice system, you will also be expected to examine the system from a critical perspective, drawing upon a variety of sources and perspectives to evaluate the claims and assumptions of criminal justice practice.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Explain, apply, discuss and critically evaluate well-established criminal justice, criminal procedure and criminal evidence concepts, principles, theories and perspectives

  • Discuss and critique the development and purpose of criminal justice, criminal procedure and criminal evidence and its interrelationship with society and other disciplines

  • Develop individual opinions and arguments on issues and propositions relating to criminal justice, criminal evidence and criminal procedure, which are supported by appropriately critiqued academic evidence

  • Apply and evaluate critically problem-solving strategies to develop and propose solutions to academic and practical legal problems

  • Plan, implement and evaluate research methodologies and strategies, and locate relevant and reliable sources and authorities

  • Communicate the outputs of the above in a variety of written and oral formats and contexts to specialist and non-specialist audiences

  • Demonstrate understanding of norms of scholarly and professional legal practice

  • Reflect on learning and feedback, and use this in identifying future learning interests and needs

Module content

This course is primarily concerned with the way in which rules of substantive criminal law are applied through the practices of state agencies such as the police and the courts and how courts resolve disputed and disputable allegations of criminality. Students will seek to identify and critically evaluate, through analysis of primary and secondary legal sources, the dominant principles or values at work within the criminal justice process and seek to identify the extent to which conflicting justice values are reconcilable or in conflict. Seminar and workshop discussion will examine the practices of key legal institutions and the operation of legal principles in a number of areas of the trial process.


Task Length % of module mark
1000 word reflective account
N/A 25
2500 word essay
N/A 75

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will be invited to develop their own essay question during the second half of Term 2. This will be required to engage with the content of at least two workshops or seminars and to explore one or more of the 'key themes' of criminal justice identify through seminar and workshop activities. Students will be supported in their formulating a question through discussions with their tutors.

The reflective account will invite students to explore their engagement through research with a subject area explored on the course that does not form part of their essay. Students will be invited to explain and evaluate their process of exploring, understanding and discussing the subject area and to consider how their approach to research has been (and could further be) developed based on this experience.


Task Length % of module mark
1000 word reflective account
N/A 25
2500 word essay
N/A 75

Module feedback

Students will be encouraged during workshops and seminars to give and receive feedback on ideas shared and to engage in reflection and evaluation of the sources they are using. Tutors will guide this process as well as giving feedback and inviting reflection on research practices and understanding of concepts. Students will be encouraged to keep a journal for use in their final reflection. Students will also have an opportunity during the course of the year to submit a case note for feedback and will be invited to submit a piece of writing relating to a Term 1 seminar discussion at the end of that term. They will receive feedback on this at the start of Term 2.

Students will receive written feedback on both elements of assessment. Feedback on the essay will engage with the relevant assessment criteria for each assessment type and provide guidance to students on developing their academic abilities into Year 3.

Indicative reading

Ashworth & Redmayne, The Criminal Justice Process (4th edn, OUP)

Sanders, Young & Burton, Criminal Justice (4th edn, OUP)

Roberts & Zuckerman, Criminal Evidence (2nd edn, OUP)

Hucklesby & Wahidin, Criminal Justice (2nd edn, OUP)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

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