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In the first half of this unit you will examine the criminal justice system in its theoretical, historical, political and social context. This will entail understanding the agencies and processes involved in criminal justice – from initial complaint, police investigation, and prosecution all the way through to sentencing and imprisonment. You will consider limitations of the criminal justice system in dealing with vulnerable groups, including Indigenous Australians, young people, people with mental illnesses, and victims of sexual offences. Students will analyse options for criminal law reform, particularly those in Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

With this foundation, the unit then introduces you to the fundamental principles of criminal responsibility that govern criminal trials. You will study the detail of particular crimes – including assault, grievous bodily harm, trespass, arson and motor vehicle theft, as well as certain defences, such as intoxication and self defence. Underlying these topics is an analysis of what the criminal law calls mens rea, or the guilty mind, and the principle of coincidence of act and intent. In practical problem-solving exercises you will determine the guilt or innocence of fictitious characters involved in hypothetical scenarios.

Summary 2021

Unit name Criminal Law: Principles and Processes
Unit code LAW229
Credit points 12.5
Faculty/School College of Arts, Law and Education
Faculty of Law
Discipline Law

Dr Helen Cockburn

Available as student elective? No
Breadth Unit? No



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About Census Dates

Learning Outcomes

  1. Examine and evaluate the principles of criminal law, and the social context in which the criminal law operates
  2. Critically appraise the social and international context of criminal laws and develop options for law reform.
  3. Discuss criminal procedure and the importance of the rights of the defendant, suspect or detainee
  4. Recall and summarise legal definitions, the outcomes of court cases, and the facts that need to be proven to establish guilt for different criminal offences
  5. Select relevant legal principles and cases and apply them appropriately in problem solving exercises involving hypothetical factual situations




50 credit points of Introductory Law core or (LAW121 and LAW122)

Mutual Exclusions

You cannot enrol in this unit as well as the following:

LAW252 & LAW358


Teaching Pattern

Interactive lectures (2.5 hours, weekly)
Interactive tutorials (50 minutes, fortnightly)


Task 1: Multiple choice test, 30 minutes (10%)

Task 2: End of semester open book exam, 2 hours (45%)

Task 3: Critical thinking and law reform essay, 2500 words (30%)

Task 4: Tutorial Paper, 1500 words (15%)

TimetableView the lecture timetable | View the full unit timetable



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