LL284      Half Unit
Topics in Sentencing and Criminal Justice

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Kate Leader


This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law and LLB in Laws. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available to General Course students.

Course content

In this course, we will explore the practices and decision-making of key actors within the criminal justice system and examine with the policies and regulatory schemes that purport to govern how these actors perform their roles in the criminal process. In the first five weeks, we track the construction of cases through the criminal process, which introduces us to the work of police, prosecutors and judges. How do these actors exercise their discretion? What kinds of dynamics, sub-cultures and formal (and informal) rules animate their decision-making? And how does this impact on the rights of suspects, defendants, offenders? By applying models of justice to the most recent developments in law, policy and practice at various stages of the criminal process, students will be equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to critically assess and engage with contemporary criminal justice issues. Building on this in the second five weeks, we focus on how judges perform their role as sentencers, the principles and legal guidelines they rely upon in doing so and the types of sentences they can (or must) hand down in certain types of cases. We use the sentencing of rioters and the life sentence as case studies to apply the general principles of sentencing and conclude the course by considering the role of non-custodial sentences.

Topics by Week

  1. The Criminal Process and Models of Justice
  2. In the Community: What Do Police Do and Why Do They Do It?
  3. In the Station: Police Practices and Case Construction
  4. Bringing the Case: Prosecutorial Discretion and Plea Bargaining
  5. In Court: The Judiciary and Legal Representation
  6. Reading Week
  7. Sentencing Theory: Aims, Principles and Policies
  8. Sentencing Practice: Discretion and Guidelines
  9. Sentencing Rioters
  10. The Life Sentence for Murder
  11. Non-Custodial Sentences


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

Introductory lecturing is combined with group discussion and in-class exercises

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

Indicative reading

I want to encourage you to take responsibility for what you read and to come to class keen to present your own thoughts and ideas based on this reading. There is textbook reading each week, but to keep the material and topics we discuss as contemporary as possible, I have supplemented these texts with recent articles and chapters. The variety of reading and the choice this offers ought to facilitate lively and informative discussions in class.

Recommended texts for the course include:


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2018/19: 14

Average class size 2018/19: 15

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills