Module Identifier LA35930  
Module Title CRIMINAL LAW  
Academic Year 2003/2004  
Co-ordinator Mr Gavin S Dingwall  
Semester Semester 2 (Taught over 2 semesters)  
Other staff Ms Melanie L Williams, Mr Neil Kibble  
Co-Requisite LA10110 or LA30110 or LA15710  
Mutually Exclusive LA15930  
Course delivery Lecture   48 Hours - 3 one hour lectures per week  
  Seminars / Tutorials   10 Hours - 5 one hour seminars each semester  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours  66%
Semester Assessment Essay: Assessed essay of 2000 words (required in Week 11 of Semester 2)  33%
Supplementary Assessment Resit: By retaking the failed element (ie written assignment or examination or both, as applicable)   
Professional Exemptions Required for Professional Purposes  

Learning outcomes

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

Students are expected to become proficient at recognising and applying the relevant law in order to solve problems. They are also expected to evaluate and criticise the law and to be aware of the scope for reform.

The analytical approach is designed specifically to encourage students to construct a convincing argument on the basis of relevant evidence. In order to fully understand the way in which the Criminal Law operates in society, students have to gain an appreciation of the historical development, the theoretical basis and the increasingly supra-national nature of the subject matter. All of the intellectual skills and subject skills identified in the programme outcomes are encouraged by the module.

Brief description

Criminal Law is a foundation subject, and 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 law: it intrudes into commercial law, revenue law, family law, environmental law and many others. For example The Companies Act 1985 creates over 150 different criminal offences. 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 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 English criminal law, and a working knowledge of a reasonably wide range of specific offences and defences.


1. The Nature of Criminal Law
Essential definitions and distinctions
The role of Criminal Law in society

2. Elements of a Criminal Offence

2.1 Actus Reus
commission and omission
state of affairs offences
conduct and result crimes

2.2 Mens Rea
different forms of mens rea
crimes of strict liability
knowledge or belief
maliciousness `
recklessness (Cunningham and Caldwell distinguished)
mistakes and mens rea

3. Homicide
varieties of unlawful homicide
constructive manslaughter
reckless manslaughter
killing under provocation
diminished responsibility
causing death by dangerous driving

4. Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person
assault and battery
assault occasioning actual bodily harm
wounding and grievous bodily harm
assaulting a constable etc.
other violent offences

5. Sexual Offences
unlawful sexual intercourse
homosexual offences
indecent assault

6. Inchoate Offences
common law and statutory conspiracies

7. Participation in Crime
vicarious and corporate liability
aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring
mens rea of participants
withdrawal from participation
victims as accessories
joint enterprise

8. Capacity and Defences
mental illness/insanity
self defence

9. Theft and Offences Against Property
handling stolen goods
taking conveyance without consent
false accounting
making off without payment
obtaining property by deception
obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception
obtaining services by deception
other fraud offences
criminal damage

Reading Lists

Smith & Hogan (1999) Criminal Law 9th.

Statutes on Criminal Law Blackstone Press


This module is at CQFW Level 6