Module Identifier LA36620  
Academic Year 2001/2002  
Co-ordinator Miss Katherine Williams  
Semester Intended for use in future years  
Next year offered N/A  
Next semester offered N/A  
Other staff Ms Francoise Jarvis  
Course delivery Lecture   40 Hours One two and two one hour lectures per week  
  Seminar   8 Hours Four two hour seminars during the semester  
Assessment Essay   Assessed essay of 3000 words required in Week 9   50%  
  Exam   1.5 Hours   50%  
  Resit assessment   By retaking the failed element (ie written assignment or examination or both, as applicable)    
Professional Exemptions Not Required for Professional Purposes  

Module description

'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness'

From the American Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson (1776). The origins of human rights can be traced back to very early jurisprudential and other philosophical theories. The basis may be in natural law, as suggested above, or it could be associated with being human whereby every person has the right to what is necessary for an autonomous and dignified life. This course will begin by studying rights theorists, what is meant by human rights and where they come from. It considers why human rights should constitute a legitimate constraint on the acts, desires and will of the powerful. The course will consider some of the rights theories to lay the basis for an understanding of the concepts around which human rights are built and to be a standard against which to test the international and national rights provisions.

'...recognition of the inherent dignity and of equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,'

Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

The subject is very wide: it includes civil and political rights; economic and social rights; cultural rights; the rights of indigenous peoples; as well as the rights of specific groups. It covers issues which arise in daily life and about which legislatures, courts and law-enforcement officials make decisions every day. How important is freedom of expression? Should it be respected even when the contents is offensive? Is privacy worthy of protection and if so how is it defined? In reflecting on rights we will look at when they begin and end and at who enjoys rights? Do members of minority groups enjoy the same liberties as others in the society? Are rights the preserve of the individual or should they also be enjoyed by groups? The course studies British law in the light of both the works of legal theorists and the internationally won standards of Human Rights, it will pay particular attention to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. We will study the way in which international law interplays with state laws and with theoretical analysis of rights.

Balancing the rights of the individual and the powers of the state as well as the conflicting rights of individuals in a state has been one of the most difficult problems for any society to solve. Often one persons enjoyment of rights leads to the violation of the rights of others. Restraint in the exercise of state power may increase one groups liberties at the expense of the liberties of others, for example, to allow a peaceful march interferes with the use of the highway by others whereas to prevent it interferes with freedom of expression. People are constantly searching for an acceptable balance between these often conflicting positions.
The course will introduce students to rights theorists and international norms as well as to critical legal and social analyses of the status quo so as to equip them with the materials necessary to a full and intellectual discussion of the subject. Students will be encouraged to read widely and critically. The method of teaching is designed to help students to explore, debate and come to independent assessments of the role of law in the creation of a society in which human freedoms are increased. We will not arrive at absolute answers and there will always be room for discussion and disagreement. The course is designed to give students an awareness of and an ability to compare and critically analyse liberties and legal rights. It is not intended merely to get students to learn tracts of information but rather to teach them which are the important questions to ask and how to approach finding solutions. For example it is less important that they learn the date of the last reforms to the public order controls than that they understand the rights issues involved in the debate and the problems to which such an analysis gives rise. It is important that students are able to question and analyse and that they are able to find information when this is necessary. The course is specifically designed to teach the skills necessary to achievement of these aims.


To prepare students for a working environment by enhancing their ability to respond to analytical and critical debate and preparing them for conducting research by both honing analytical and critical skills and enhancing their library skills, including the use of new technologies. In particular the module will develop an appreciation of the role of law in protecting individuals both from the power of the state and from each other. It will permit students to understand the means by which law tries to achieve a balance and equip them to critically analyse its success.

Module objectives / Learning outcomes

The course will encourage and teach:

Ability to locate relevant materials and to sift useful information from a range of sources.

Knowledge and understanding of the laws, policies and theories which shape rights theories both nationally and internationally.

An understanding of the importance of the sociology of the state to the success or failure of rights guaranteed in law.

A willingness and ability to analyse data and discussions and to produce a well constructed argument.

To broaden the experience of students in a wide range of cultural and international approaches to law and rights.

To encourage debate and enhance the confidence of students in their own powers of reasoning and in presenting a logical argument.

To study and question the effectiveness of law.


1) What are Civil Liberties 2) Why not Civil Rights? 3) How do they differ from human rights?




1) Internal. 2) External.

1) Limits in the ECHR - Art. 15 and the second paragraph to articles 8-11






Numbers permitting this course will be based on small group work as opposed to formal lectures. Students are introduced to an area through a short lecture, they are then given time to do some reading and in the next session the issues raised are discussed. By this means students are introduced to the essential materials but are also given ample opportunity to enhance their ability to participate in reasoned and logical discussion and argument. This confidence should aid the students in both their examination and in whatever profession they work in later in life.

Reading Lists

** Recommended Consultation
Bailey Harris and Jones. (1995) Civil Liberties: Cases & Materials. 4th.
Feldman. (1994) Civil Liberties & Human Rights in England & Wales. OUP
Robertson. Freedom, the Individual and the Law.