Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Law


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 150 Location Durham


  • Criminal Law (LAW 2221)


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To develop a detailed understanding of specialised aspects of criminal law through the study of selected topics in critical perspective.


  • The module will consist of critical analysis of six areas of criminal law. A selection of topics in the following indicative areas will run each year:
  • Obstetric violence
  • Infanticide
  • Gender and homicide
  • Race/ethnicity and criminal offending
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual violence
  • Consent
  • Terrorism
  • Jurisdiction

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should be able to demonstrate:
  • A thorough knowledge of certain selected issues in criminal law.
  • Critical assessment of key academic debates on selected issues within criminal law.
  • A familiarity with the policy and reform literatures on selected issues in criminal law.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Identify legal and policy issues and arguments concerning selected issues in criminal law.
  • Critically evaluate how political, cultural, social, and historical factors affect legal approaches to selected issues in criminal law.
  • Appreciate that certain aspects of criminal law may be uncertain and complex, and critically evaluate the doctrinal coherence and consistency of criminal law.
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Develop research and writing skills, including the ability to work independently and to take responsibility for their own learning.
  • Engage in critical reading of legal, academic, and policy texts.
  • Identify relevant principles of law and analyse relevant case law.
  • Apply knowledge to complex situations, recognise potential alternative conclusions for particular situations, and provide supporting reasons for them.
  • Communicate complex ideas in writing.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The course will be taught as a series of six topics, with each topic containing one two-hour lecture and one two-hour seminar. Lectures will provide students with a background to the topic, outlining the relevant law and indicating points of debate and tension. Seminar worksheets will be provided in advance of each seminar to encourage students to engage in pre-session reading and preparation. The reading will be selected to enhance students’ capacity for evaluation and critical analysis. Seminars will allow students to develop their own ideas and perspectives through engagement in in-depth discussion of each topic.
  • The assessment will take the form of one formative and one summative assessment.
  • The formative assessment is designed to support students to prepare for the summative assessment, and feedback will reflect this (so will feedforward). The formative assessment will be a 500-word plan of the Law Reform Proposal, illustrating the key points of critique and analysis.
  • There is one summative assessment: a 4,000-word Law Reform Proposal. Students will be provided with a Law Reform Proposal Brief , that sets out the task. It will require students to identify the criminal law issue they have selected, explain the legal, political, social and historical context within which the issues has emerged, critically analyse the issue, drawing on a wide range of primary and secondary source materials, and set out their position on why the issue should be retained, reformed, or repealed. As such, students will be encouraged to take a narrow focus so as to provide an in-depth analysis of a key issue.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
lectures 6 Normally three each in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms 2 hr 12
seminars 6 Normally three each in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms 2 hrs 12
preparation and reading 176

Summative Assessment

Component: Law Reform Proposal Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Law Reform proposal 4,000 words 100% N

Formative Assessment:

Epiphany Term: One 500-word plan of the Law Reform proposal

â–  Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University