Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice: Law, Policy and Practice

The details
Essex Law School
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
22 October 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module will appeal to students seeking an in-depth and critical knowledge of the law, policy and practice of key aspects of the criminal justice system in England and Wales.The module will begin with an overview of the criminal justice system in England and Wales. The importance of the presumption of innocence and the defendant's right to a fair trial will also be addressed.The significance of the political context in the development of criminal justice policy, and recent trends and themes in criminal justice policy will be examined. This overview will link to later discussions on the particular aspects of the criminal process explored. Specificaspects of the criminal process, ranging from pre-trial to post-trial stage, will then be examined in-depth.

Module aims

1. To provide students with knowledge and understanding of the law, policy and practice of specific aspects of the criminal process in England and Wales.
2. To encourage students to engage critically with the literature and other evidence, and to develop reasoned judgments and arguments based on their engagement with this material.
3. To encourage students to communicate effectively inboth oral and written format.
4. To encourage an appreciation of the social and political context in which the criminal justice system operates.

Module learning outcomes

At the end of this module students should be able to:
1. Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of key aspects of the criminal justice process in England and Wales, including an awareness of current debates on these topics.
2. Demonstrate an ability to analyse and evaluate differing opinions on the law, policy and practice of the criminal process.
3. Understanding of the limits of existing knowledge and how this influences analysis and interpretations based on that knowledge
.4. Provide reasoned arguments based on academic writings and other research-based evidence.
5. To present these arguments in a coherent manner, both orally and in writing.

Module information

Indicative Syllabus
Introduction to the Criminal Justice System, including adversarial and inquisitorial systems of justice, crime control and due process models of criminaljustice, and recent themes and trends in criminal justice policy
Policing, including stop and search, police and crime commissioners
Plea Bargaining
Jury trial
Sentencing policy and rationales
Gender and Criminal Justice–sexual offences

Learning and teaching methods

This module is taught through a mixture of pre-recorded lectures and 10 weekly 50-minute small group tutorials. Each week before your tutorials, the module teaching team will make available on Moodle two or more pre-recorded video lectures that they have prepared and produced. In total, the duration of each week's video lectures will be approximately 50 minutes .In most teaching weeks, you will be expected to have watched these lectures before the tutorials, although some of these lectures may be designed to be watched after the tutorials to recap on material discussed there. The module teaching team will also produce and make available on Moodle short guidance notes for each weekly tutorial. These notes will introduce the readings that must be completed in advance of each tutorial and will contain tips to help you understand and analyse those texts. You will be expected to have completed the readings in advance of your tutorials. Your tutorials will enable you to discuss the readings in the context of specific tutorial questions, to obtain feedback on your pre-class preparation and to deepen your understanding of key concepts. To help you prepare in the best possible way for your tutorials, you will be completing regular Multiple-Choice Quizzes on Moodle. The quizzes will be based on the reading set for that week so that the quiz forms part of your preparation for each tutorial. The quizzes will enable you to track your progress, understand what you are doing well, and give you clear feedback to help you manage your studies and your progress.


  • Ashworth, Andrew. (2015) 'Sentencing aims, principles and policies', in Sentencing and Criminal Justice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., pp.75-111
  • Goldson, Barry; Muncie, John. (2006) Youth, crime and justice: critical issues, London: SAGE.
  • (no date) HMIC, PEEL: Police Legitimacy 2015.
  • Newburn, Tim. (2017) Criminology, London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Tim Newburn. (2009) Key Readings in Criminology: Willan; 1 edition.
  • Russell; Hollander. (2017) The Disappearing Trial: The Global Spread of Incentives to Encourage Suspects to Waive their Right to Trial and Plead Guilty, New Journal of European Criminal Law. vol. 8 (3) , pp.309-322
  • Thomas, C. (2017) Ethnicity and the Fairness of Jury Trials in England and Wales 2006-2014, Criminal Law Review. vol. 11, pp.860-876
  • Ashworth, A; Roberts, J. (2012) 'Sentencing Theory, Principle and Practice,', in Oxford Handbook of Criminology, Oxford: Oxford University Press., pp.866-894
  • Newburn, Tim. (2012-1) 'Police and Crime Commissioners: The Americanization of policing or a very British reform?', in International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice. vol. 40 (1) , pp.31-46
  • Waters, Ian; Hardy, Nick; Delgado, Domonique; Dahlmann, Simone. (2007-09) 'Ethnic Minorities and the Challenge of Police Recruitment', in The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles. vol. 80 (3) , pp.191-216
  • Smith, O; Skinner, T. (2017) How Rape Myths are Used and Challenged in Rape and Sexual Assault Trials, Social and Legal Studies. vol. 26 (4) , pp.441-466
  • Ministers consider ending jail terms of six months or less, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46847162
  • Helm, Rebecca K. (2019) Conviction by Consent, Journal of Criminal Law. vol. 83 (2) , pp.161-172
  • Sanders, Andrew; Young, Richard; Burton, Mandy. (2010) Criminal justice, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Jones, Matthew; Williams, Matthew L. (2015-03-04) 'Twenty years on: lesbian, gay and bisexual police officers' experiences of workplace discrimination in England and Wales', in Policing and Society. vol. 25 (2) , pp.188-211
  • (no date) Ministry of Justice, Story of the Prison Population: 1993 – 2016 England and Wales, July 2016.
  • Leverick, F. (2020) What do we know about rape myths and juror decision-making, International Journal of Evidence and Proof. vol. 24 (3)
  • Geoffrey Wilson. (2002) 'Plea Bargaining', in Handbook of the Criminal Justice Process, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Peter Joyce. (2017) Criminal justice: an introduction, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Joyce, Peter. (©2017) Criminal justice: an introduction, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Prisons minister: Scrap sentences of less than six months, https://news.sky.com/story/minister-scrap-prison-sentences-of-less-than-six-months-11605258
  • Hucklesby, Anthea; Wahidin, Azrini. (c2013) Criminal justice, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wilson, S; Rutherford, H; Story, T; Wortley, N. (2020) The English Legal System: Oxford University Press.
  • Case, Stephen; Johnson, Philip; Manlow, David; Smith, Roger S.; Williams, Katherine S. (2017) Criminology, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • (2017) The Oxford handbook of criminology, ©2017: Oxford University Press.
  • (no date) Meet The Police Commissioner, Thursday, 9pm, Channel 4.
  • (no date) Policing Protocol Order 2011.
  • McGlynn, C. (2011) Feminism, Rape and the Search for Justice, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies. vol. 31, pp.825-842
  • An Independent Review in to the Treatment of and Outcomes for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Individuals in the Criminal Justice System, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643001/lammy-review-final-report.pdf
  • Cavadino, Michael; Dignan, James. (2006-11) 'Penal policy and political economy', in Criminology & Criminal Justice. vol. 6 (4) , pp.435-456
  • Brown, Jennifer; EBSCOhost ebook collection. (2013) The future of policing, Abingdon: Taylor and Francis.
  • S, Cooper. (2020) Police and Crime Commissioners: A Corrosive Exercise of Power which Destabilises Police Accountability?, Criminal Law Review. (4) , pp.291-305
  • P. A. J. Waddington. (1999) 'Police (Canteen) sub-culture : an appreciation', in The British Journal of Criminology. vol. 39 (2) , pp.287-309
  • (no date) House of Commons Library Briefing Paper, Number CBP-04334, 23 July 2018, UK Prison Population Statistics.
  • (no date) Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme.
  • (no date) Prison Reform Trust, Prison the Facts: Bromley Briefings Summer 2015.
  • House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, Police and Crime Commissioners: progress to date, https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/757/757.pdf
  • (no date) PACE, Code A (2015).
  • Hohl; Stanko. (2015) Complaints of Rape in the Criminal Justice System: Fresh Evidence on the Attrition Problem in England and Wales’, European Journal of Criminology. vol. 12 (3) , pp.324-
  • Ellison, L; Munro, V. (2015) “’Telling Tales’: Exploring Narratives of Life and Law Within the (Mock) Jury Room”, Legal Studies. vol. 35 (2) , pp.201-225
  • Julian V. Roberts, Mike Hough, Jessica Jacobson and Nick Moon. (2009) 'Public attitudes to sentencing purposes and sentencing factors: an empirical analysis', in Criminal Law Review.
  • Parpworth, Neil. (2014-12) 'Reforming Police Powers of Stop And Search: Voluntary Action', in The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles. vol. 87 (4) , pp.234-244
  • Chambers, Sophie J. (2014) 'Who is Policing the Police and Crime Commissioners?', in Safer Communities. vol. 13 (1)
  • Bowling, Benjamin; Reiner, Robert; Sheptycki, James. (2019) The Politics of the Police: OUP Oxford; 5 edition.
  • Neil Parpworth. (no date) 'Stop and Search and Police Legitimacy: Part 1', in Criminal Law and Justice Weekly (formerly Justice of the Peace). (15) , pp.2016-
  • House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, Police and Crime Commissioners: power to remove Chief Constables, https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/487/487.pdf
  • (no date) Meet the Commissioner.
  • Lister, Stuart. (2015) 'Electing police and crime commissioners in England and Wales: Prospecting for the democratisation of policing.', in Policing & Society,. vol. 25 (4) , pp.358-377
  • You be the Judge - A guide to sentencing, http://ybtj.justice.gov.uk/
  • Loftus, Bethan. Centre for Criminology, Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom, bethan.loftus@crim.ox.ac.uk. (2010) 'Police occupational culture: Classic themes, altered times.', in Policing & Society,. vol. 20 (1) , pp.1-20
  • Campeau, Holly. (2015-07) '‘Police Culture’ at Work: Making Sense of Police Oversight', in British Journal of Criminology. vol. 55 (4) , pp.669-687
  • Neil Parpworth. (no date) 'Stop and Search and Police Legitimacy: Part 2', in Criminal Law and Justice Weekly (formerly Justice of the Peace). (16) , pp.2016-
  • Coen, Mark; Doak, Jonathan. (2017-12) 'Embedding explained jury verdicts in the English criminal trial', in Legal Studies. vol. 37 (4) , pp.786-806
  • Lister, Stuart. (2014) 'Scrutinising the Role of the Police and Crime Panel in the New Era of Police Governance in England and Wales', in Safer Communities. vol. 13 (1)
  • Tom Cockcroft. (2013) Police culture: themes and concepts, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Police workforce diversity data, https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/workforce-and-business/workforce-diversity/police-workforce/latest
  • Law Trove - expand your learning, broaden your mind, https://0-www-oxfordlawtrove-com.serlib0.essex.ac.uk/
  • James Chalmers, Peter Duff and Fiona Leverick. (2007) 'Victim impact statements: can work, do work (for those who bother to make them)', in Criminal Law Review.
  • Alison Liebling; Shadd Maruna; Lesley McAra. (2017) Oxford Handbook of Criminology, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Malcolm Davies. (2015) Davies, Croall & Tyrer's Criminal Justice, Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Summative Essay    80% 
Practical   Multiple-Choice Quizzes    20% 

Additional coursework information

80% Summative 20% Multiple-Choice Quizzes

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Karen Brennan, email: kbrennan@essex.ac.uk.
Dr Karen Brennan & Dr Simon Cooper
Law Admin Office - lawugadmin@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Christopher Lloyd
Oxford Brookes University
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 5577 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
5577 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Essex Law School

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