LL4CE      Half Unit
Security and Criminal Law

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Peter Ramsay NAB 6.27


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Criminal Justice Policy and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at 30 students. Students must apply through Graduate Course Choice on LSEforYou.


Undergraduate study of criminal law (or equivalent).

Course content

This is a course in advanced criminal law theory. The central concern of contemporary criminal justice policy is public protection. The course examines leading texts in Anglo-American criminal law theory in order to investigate the interests that are protected by the structure of the criminal law.

Seminars cover:

the concept of security;

the concept of criminal law;

state punishment; 

the presumption of innocence;

actus reus;

criminal responsibility;

criminal defences;

public welfare offences; 

pre-emptive offences;

security and human rights.


The reading materials for this course are primarily philosophical and theoretical. The course contrasts the different perspectives of moral and political theories of criminal justice and criminal law, and investigates what they tell us about the scope and limits of criminal law as a security system. The course therefore provides an introduction to normative criminal law theory in the common law world. At the same time, this introduction adopts an innovative approach to that theory by situating it in the context of the contemporary policy pressures on criminal law.

Each seminar consists of a student presentation on a key question, class discussion and a teacher presentation. There is a reading week in Week 6.



20 hours of seminars in the MT.

There will be a Reading Week in week 6 of MT.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to produce one 2,000 word formative essay during the course.

Indicative reading

A Ashworth and L Zedner Preventive Justice (OUP 2014); I Dennis and GR Sullivan (eds), Seeking Security: Pre-empting the Commission of Criminal Harms (Hart, 2012); A Brudner, Punishment and Freedom (OUP, 2009); RA Duff, Answering for Crime (Hart, 2007);  P Ramsay The Insecurity State: Vulnerable Autonomy and the Right to Security In the Criminal Law (OUP, 2012); A Ashworth (et al), Prevention and the Limits of Criminal Law (OUP, 2013).


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the summer exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2017/18: 8

Average class size 2017/18: 7

Controlled access 2017/18: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information