Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Criminal Law
Academic Year
Semester 2 (Taught over 2 semesters)
Mutually Exclusive
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 40 Hours Total
Seminars / Tutorials 8 Hours. 4 x 1 hour seminars per semester.


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  - Assessed essay of 2000 words (required in Week 10 of Semester 2)  33%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Exam  Candidates may take into the examination an unmarked copy of Blackstone’s Criminal Law Statutes (any edition). Unmarked material which is permitted to be taken into the examination must remain unmarked for the duration of the examination. Highlighting and underlining are permitted. Blank post-it notes can be used to mark pages.   67%
Supplementary Assessment Essay  - Assessed essay of 2000 words - if essay element failed  33%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Exam  Candidates may take into the examination an unmarked copy of Blackstone’s Criminal Law Statutes (any edition). Unmarked material which is permitted to be taken into the examination must remain unmarked for the duration of the examination. Highlighting and underlining are permitted. Blank post-it notes can be used to mark pages.   - if exam element failed.  67%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. evaluate and analyse critically the scope and purpose of the criminal law, with reference to historical development, current problems and the possibilities for reform;

2. identify and explain the fundamental principles of criminal law and critically analyse their relevance and application;

3. identify and analyse the elements forming the basis of criminal liability, namely the conduct element and the mental element;

4. identify and explain the relevant constitutive elements of major offences and defences and be able to apply them to factual situations in order to solve problems;

5. construct convincing and cogent arguments on the basis of relevant law and available evidence.

In so doing students will develop the following skills:
a. reading and comprehension of cases and other legal texts;
b. written and oral expression;
c. critical and contextual analysis;
d. interpretation and application of legal rules.

Brief description

Criminal Law is a foundation subject, which must be studied and passed for the purpose of obtaining exemption from the first stage of professional law examinations. Criminal law is just one of the many branches of the law that may be studied by students, but it is arguably the largest and the most pervasive. In other words, the criminal law impinges on almost every other sphere of English and Welsh law: it intrudes into commercial law, revenue law, family law, environmental law and many others. You will even encounter criminal law when studying public international law. It follows that the study of the general principles underlying the criminal law forms an important part of any proper legal education. We must emphasise that the course will not attempt to deal with all or even most of the specific offences known to English and Welsh law. There are too many such offences. The emphasis is on the underlying principles. Can criminal liability be incurred without proof of fault or of criminal intent? Will a person be deemed to "intend" a consequence where he knew it to be an inevitable side effect of his intended behaviour? Can ignorance of the law ever amount to a defence? What if a person sets out to commit a certain crime, but abandons the idea before completing it? Although the emphasis is on general principles, these cannot be taught or understood without reference to specific offences, and a significant number of these offences will be studied in depth. Homicide, for example, can be used to illustrate and explain a wide range of principles. Killings may be lawful or unlawful; deliberate or accidental; pre-meditated or the result of sudden provocation. The killer may be drunk or sober or insane; the victim may die at once, or may die later as the result of medical negligence. There is another reason for studying a fairly wide range of offences. A criminal lawyer needs to be aware of the fact that, where one offence cannot be made out on the evidence available, it is possible that another, slightly different offence can be made out. A charge of aggravated burglary might succeed where one of robbery would fail. Criminal law is often the subject that new law students most want to study and we trust that they will not be disappointed with it. It is vivid and shocking in places, and strong in human interest. It is not, however, an easy subject. It exposes students to complex problems of statutory interpretation, and requires the study of a great deal of case law, much of it contradictory and unsound. Students must be prepared to question and criticise the law, whilst at the same time attempting to understand it.


The aim of this module is to provide students with a proper understanding of the basic principles and objectives of the criminal law of England and Wales, together with a working knowledge of a reasonably wide range of specific offences and defences. The module also aims to develop skills as outlined above, especially in relation to the use of legal texts and the interpretation and understanding of legal rules.


1. The Nature of Criminal Law
  • The meaning and scope of crime
  • The role of Criminal Law in society
  • Fundamental principles of criminal law
2. Elements of a Criminal Offence

2.1 Actus Reus
  • Commission and omission
  • State of affairs offences
  • Conduct and result crimes
  • Causation
  • Voluntariness and automatism
2.2 Mens Rea
  • Different forms of mens rea
  • Foresight
  • Intention
  • Knowledge or belief
  • Negligence
  • Recklessness (Cunningham and Caldwell distinguished)
2.3 Crimes of Strict Liability

3. Homicide
  • Varieties of unlawful homicide
  • Murder
  • Killing as a result of a loss of control
  • Killing due to diminished responsibility
  • Constructive manslaughter
  • Reckless manslaughter
  • Gross negligence manslaughter
4. Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person
  • Assault and battery
  • Assault occasioning actual bodily harm
  • Wounding and grievous bodily harm
  • Other violent offences
5. Sexual Offences
  • Rape
  • Unlawful sexual intercourse
6. Theft and Offences Against Property
  • Theft
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Making off without payment
  • Fraud offences
7. Inchoate Offences
  • Assisting and encouraging
  • Common law and statutory conspiracies
  • Attempt
8. Participation in Crime
  • Aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring
  • Mens rea of participants
  • Withdrawal from participation
  • Joint enterprise
9. Capacity and Defences
  • Mental illness/insanity
  • Intoxication
  • Self defence
  • Duress
  • Necessity
  • Mistake
  • Automatism

Reading List

Should Be Purchased
(2010) Blackstone's Statutes on Criminal Law 2010-2011 Oxford University Press Primo search Herring, Jonathan (2010) Criminal Law: text, cases and materials 4th ed. Oxford University Press Primo search
Supplementary Text
Allen, M (2010) Elliott and Wood's Cases and Materials on Criminal Law 10th ed. Sweet & Maxwell Primo search Clarkson, Keating & Cunningham (2010) Criminal Law: Text and Materials 7th ed. Sweet & Maxwell Primo search Jefferson, Michael (2009) Criminal Law 9th ed Pearson Longman Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 4