Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture Two one hour lectures per week (part of 30hrs allocation)
Lecture One two hour lecture per week (part of 30hrs allocation)
Seminars / Tutorials 6 Hours. Three two hour seminars during the semester


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 2 Hours   seen examination  100%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   seen examination  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

The course will teach and develop :

  • the ability to locate relevant materials and to select information from a range of sources.
  • knowledge and understanding of the law, policies and theories which shape the criminal justice and the penal systems.
  • an understanding of the key concepts of the subject and the methods of evaluating the operation of the system.
  • an understanding of the social background and wider context of criminal justice.
  • the ability to analyse data.
  • a wider experience in the methodology of the social sciences.
  • the ability to engage in rigorous debate and the presentation of logical and balanced argument.
  • critical study of the effectiveness of law.

Brief description

The terms 'criminal justice' and 'penal system' together refer to the collection of legal procedures and institutions which are used to give effect to the system of criminal law. In its widest context the process of criminal justice can be traced from its earliest stages in the elaboration of the laws to be enforced, through the investigation and prosecution of offending conduct (including diversion, trial and conviction) and culminating in the later stages of sentencing and implementation of those measures decided upon by sentencers. This amounts to a large body of policy, law and practice which provides the context in which substantive criminal law operates. This course considers the theoretical basis and justification for the criminal justice and penal systems; the policy concerns which define conduct as criminal and the reasons behind the shaping of policies; the level of particular criminal activities and the statistical analysis of crime; problems which may arise in the enforcement of criminal law; the impact of criminal justice on different groups in society, particularly victims; issues of gender, race and age; the process of sentencing and the operation of the most significant penal measures, including those which may have as their main objectives the treatment and rehabilitation of offenders or the protection of society.

The subject is one which invites critical analysis and is well-known generally as a catalyst for controversy and debate. The problem of dealing with crime is a significant issue for most societies and the official response to this problem through the mechanisms of criminal justice and the penal system is an interesting testing ground for argument about the effectiveness of law. The procedures, institutions and agencies of the criminal justice systems are studied in detail and analysed critically. Comparisons are drawn where appropriate with approaches taken in other legal systems and present responses are set in the context of the historical development of policies to deal with crime and delinquency.

Studying this type of subject necessarily entails reference to a wide range of materials within the whole spectrum of law and social science: legislation and case law; empirical research studies; statistical data; policy documents; and works of a theoretical kind based in both social science and moral philosophy. The module therefore has a strong interdisciplinary element which will broaden the experience of the student of law, while making the study of some areas of the legal system accessible to students of other subjects.


More generally, to prepare students for a working environment by enhancing their ability to engage in analytical and critical debate and developing research skills both in the library and through the use of new technologies. More particularly, the module will develop an appreciation of the role of law in dealing with social delinquency and an understanding of the means of measuring and testing the effectiveness of legal responses to the problems of crime.


The module is taught through lectures and seminars. The lectures are intended to provide a framework for understanding the subject and developing a critical response to the issues which arise from it. Seminars provide the opportunity for more detailed discussion and analysis and often cover aspects not included in the lectures. Topics for seminar discussion and for written work are designed to encourage independent research by students.

1. Theories:
  • Of criminal justice
  • Relating to Penal Policy and the Penal System
2. The Phenomenon of Crime
  • The 'politics' of crime
  • Establishing the level and patterns of crime: official criminal statistics - alternative methods of establishing the crime rate
  • Analysing data relating to crime
  • Theoretical assessment of crime and its occurance
  • Media perceptions of crime
  • Sentencing, facts and figures
3. Policing
  • Police discretion and types of policing
  • Police accountability
  • Future policy
4. Criminal justice Procedure
  • Police decisions
  • Detention in the Police Station
  • Prosecution and diversion
  • Pre-trial
  • Justice in the system
5. The sentencing process and the principles of sentencing
  • The repertoire of sentences
  • The choice between custodial and non-custodial measures
  • The objectives underlying the choice of sentence : punishment, rehabilitation and protection of society
6. Prisons

Reading List

General Text
F Leishman, B Loveday & S Savage (2000) Core Issues in Policing 2nd ed. Longman Primo search K Stenson & R R Sullivan (2001) Crime, Risk & Justice Willan Primo search
Supplementary Text
Andrew Ashworth (1998) The Criminal Process: An Evaluative Study 2nd Oxford University Press Primo search C Harding and L Koffman (1995) Sentencing and the Penal System: Text and Materials 2nd Sweet & Maxwell Primo search G Dingwall and C Harding (1998) Diversion in the Criminal Process Sweet & Maxwell Primo search M Cavadino and J Dignan (2008) The Penal System : and Introduction 4th ed. Sage Primo search M Wasik, T Gibbons and M Redmayne (1998) Criminal Justice - Text and Materials Longman Primo search Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan and Robert Reiner (2007) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology 4th ed. Oxford University Press Primo search R.A. Duff and D. Garland (1994) A Reader on Punishment Oxford University Press Primo search Von Hirsch and A Ashworth (1998) Principled Sentencing 2nd Hart Publishing Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6