• Offered by ANU Law School
  • ANU College ANU College of Law
  • Course subject Laws
  • Areas of interest Law
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person

A critical approach to the study of criminal law enhances one’s understanding and appreciation of the nature of criminal law and its impacts on those whose lives are most directly affected by the criminal justice system as well as that of the society on whose behalf the criminal justice system operates.   This course offers a sustained critical inquiry into the context and construction of the criminal law.  

As an advanced course in criminal law, we will analyse closely the general principles of the criminal law, interrogate its application and examine the impacts of the criminal justice system on the broader social field. We will examine diverse approaches to critiquing the criminal justice system in context. These approaches will include normative perspectives, and other perspectives offered by criminology, criminal justice scholarship, sociology, history and other social sciences. Using these approaches, we will interrogate the construction of ‘core crimes’ and other areas of criminal law typically encountered in practice. These additional areas of law may include: police powers, bail law, drug law, public order offences, sentencing and/or new areas of law. The topics will vary from year to year depending on current issues and the expertise of the course designer.  

This course is framed by social justice values and its teachers are committed to continually developing respectful engagement with Indigenous knowledges and perspectives. To this end, we will consider the subject of the criminal law and the criminal justice system in a broad contextual framing and looks for alternative perspectives to make sense of criminal laws and their multiple, often obscured, impacts. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Demonstrate advanced knowledge of criminal law principles.
  2. Synthesise, explain and evaluate different theoretical approaches arising from various academic disciplines and methodologies (including critical criminal justice, critical criminology, and sociolegal studies) to criminal law, criminalisation and the role of the State in regulating criminal conduct.
  3. Design and execute interdisciplinary legal research independently in order to produce original scholarship.
  4. Explain and demonstrate the differential impact of the criminal law on vulnerable individuals and marginalised groups, including the way that gender, class, race, indigeneity and/or sexuality can intersect and affect criminal justice outcomes.
  5. Engage in legal research utilising a variety of legal research sources and technical research skills, including legal databases, in order to research case law, legislation, scholarly journal articles and texts, and policy research.
  6. Discuss and debate knowledge and complex ideas.
  7. Reflect on the role of the practitioner in the criminal justice system and possibilities for ameliorating miscarriages of justice.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Class interaction: 10% (ILO 2, 5, 6, 7, 8)short essay: 30% (ILO 1, 2) (10) [LO null]
  2. Court observation report 20% (optional): 20% (ILO 1, 2, 3, 4, 8) (20) [LO null]
  3. Long essay: 60% or 40% (ILO 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) (60) [LO null]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Classes offered in non-standard sessions will be taught on an intensive base with compulsory contact hours (approximately 26 hours of face to face teaching). The course will also require advanced preparation through assigned readings. In total, it is anticipated that the hours required for completion of this course (class preparation, teaching and completion of assessment) will not exceed 120 hours. Classes offered during semester periods are expected to have 3 contact hours per week.

Click here for the LLM Masters Program timetable.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must be studying a; Master of Laws (MLLM) and have completed or be completing LAWS8586 Law and Legal Institutions; or Graduate Certificate of Law (CLAW) and have completed or be completing LAWS8586 Law and Legal Institutions; or Juris Doctor (MJD) and have completed or be completing five 1000 or 6100 level LAWS courses. Students undertaking any ANU graduate program may apply for this course. Enrolments are accepted on a case-by-case basis. Please contact the ANU College of Law for permission code.

Prescribed Texts

Steel, Alex, et al. Criminal Laws: Materials and commentary on criminal law and process in NSW. (2015). 6th ed.

Preliminary Reading

Other texts and materials on Australian criminal law and justice: Below is a list of other criminal law and procedure texts that may assist your learning from time to time and may assist you in research for your court report and essay. These texts need not be purchased. Some of these texts are available in the library; some will be in the short term loan section of the library. 1. Articles/Books/Reports
T Anthony & C Cunneen (eds), The Critical Criminology Companion, Hawkins PressA Ashworth, and JCN Horder, Principles of Criminal Law (7th ed, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). A Ashworth, Principles of Criminal Law (6th ed, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). KJ Arenson, M Bagaric, and P Gillies, Australian Criminal Law in the Common Law Jurisdictions: Cases and Materials (4th ed, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2014). Baldry, E, Brown, M, Brown, D, Cunneen, C, Swartz, M & Steel A 2011, ‘Imprisoning Rationalities’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, vol 44, no 1, pp. 24-37.Booth, T 2012, ‘Cooling Out Victims of Crime: Managing Victim Participation in the Sentencing Process in a Superior Court’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, vol 45, no 2, pp.241-230.S Bronitt and B McSherry, Principles of Criminal Law (3rd Edition, Pyrmont: Lawbook Co, 2010). D Brown, D Farrier, S Egger, L McNamara, A Steel, M Grewcock, and D Spears, Brown, Farrier, Neal and Weisbrot’s Criminal Laws: Materials and Commentary on Criminal Law and Process in New South Wales (5th ed, Sydney: Federation Press, 2011). D Chappell and P Wilson (eds), Issues in Australian Crime and Criminal Justice (LexisNexis, 2005)  Cohen, S 1988, Against Criminology, Transaction Books, New BrunswickC Corns, Public Prosecutions in Australia: Law, Policy and Practice (Pyrmont, Thomson Reuters Lawbook Co., 2014). P Crofts, Criminal Law Elements (5th ed, LexisNexis Butterworths, 2014). M Eburn, R Howie, P Sattler, Hayes & Eburn Criminal Law and Procedure in New South Wales (4th ed, Chatswood: Lexis-Nexis Butterworths, 2013). P Fairall and S Yeo, Criminal Defences in Australia (4th ed, Sydney: LexisNexis Butterworths, 2005). M Findlay, Criminal Law Problems in Context (2nd ed, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2006). M Findlay, S Odgers and S Yeo, Australian Criminal Justice (4th ed., Oxford University Press, 2009)    Flatman, G & Bagaric, M 2001, ‘The Victim and the Prosecutor: The Relevance of Victims in Prosecution Decision-Making’, Deakin Law Review, vol 6, pp.238-254.Gelb, K 2011, Alternatives to Imprisonment: Community Views in Victoria, Sentencing Advisory Council, VictoriaJ Gans, Modern Criminal Law of Australia (Cambridge University Press, 2012). A Goldsmith, M Israel and K Daly (eds), Crime and Justice — A Guide to Criminology (3rd edition, Thompson Reuters, 2006); (4th ed. by M Marmo, W de Lint, D Palmer, 2011). R. Hogg & Brown, D 1998, Re-thinking Law & Order, Pluto Press, AnnandaleJewkes, Y 2009, Media and Crime, Sage Publications, LondonP Johnson and R Howie, Criminal Practice and Procedure NSW & Criminal Law News [Electronic Resource] available online on LexisNexis Butterworths via the library homepage. N Lacey, C Wells and O Quick, Reconstructing Criminal Law (4th ed, Cambridge, 2010) N Lacey, C Wells and O Quick, Reconstructing Criminal Law (3rd ed, LexisNexis UK, 2003). Lofton, B 2010, ‘Police Occupational Culture: Classic Themes, Altered Times’, Journal of Policing and Society, vol 20, no 1, pp.1-20.Mackenzie, G 2003, ‘The Art of Balancing: Queensland Judges and the Sentencing Process’, Alternative Law Journal, vol 28, no 6, pp. 288-291.B McSherry and B Naylor, Australian Criminal Laws: Critical Perspectives (Sydney: Oxford, 2004). McCulloch, J & Pickering, S 2009, ‘Pre-crime and Counter-terrorism: Imagining Future crime in the War on Terror’, British Journal of Criminology, vol 49, pp. 628-645.Smith, B & Reside, S 2010, ‘Boys, you wanna give me some action? Interventions into policing of racialised communities in Melbourne’, A Report of the 2009/2010 Racism Project, Legal Services Board, Melbourne.White, R & Habibis, D 2005, Crime and Society, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne
ALRC, Criminal Investigation (1976). Bottoms and McClean, Defendants in the Criminal Process (1976). Carlen, Magistrates’ Justice (1976). Crofts et al, “Design and Children's Courts” (2008) 33(4) The Alternative Law Journal 229. Feeley, The Process is the Punishment (1982). Garfinkel, "Conditions of Successful Degradation Ceremonies" (1956) American Journal of Sociology 61. Hay, "Property, Authority and the Criminal Law' (1975) in Hay et al Albion’s Fatal Tree (1975) (excepted in Steel et al Criminal Laws). King et al, Non-Adversarial Justice (2009) Legal Studies Department, Guilty Your Worship.- A Study of Victoria's Magistrates’ Courts (1980). Mack, K.M. & Roach Anleu, S.L., 2010. Performing impartiality: Judicial Demeanour and Legitimacy. Law and Social Inquiry-Journal of the American Bar Foundation, 35(1), 137-173. Mack, Kathy and Sharyn Roach Anleu (2007) '"Getting through the list": Judgecraft and legitimacy in the lower courts' 16 Social and Legal Studies 341-61. The Magistrates Research Project: <www.flinders.edu.au/law/judicialresearch> Matthews, Informal Justice? (1988). McBarnet, Conviction: Law, The State and the Construction of Justice (1981). Zdenkowski et al. (eds.) The Criminal Injustice System II (1987).

Some Criminal Law Journals: - Criminal Law Journal (CrimLJ) (published in Australia). - Criminal Law Review (CrimLR) (published in England). - Criminal Law Forum (CrimLF) (published in Canada).Some criminology and criminal justice journals include:- Current Issues in Criminal Justice (published in Australia)- Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology (published in Australia)- British Journal of Criminology 
2. LegislationRN Howie and PA Johnson, Annotated Criminal Legislation New South Wales (2014-2015 edition, Lexis Nexis, 2015) — also available onlineFor each jurisdiction in Australia, please consult the legislation website of that jurisdiction’s Parliamentary Counsel or the Parliament’s website wherever it is available (for example, for NSW Legislation, go to: www.legislation.nsw.gov.au; for NT Legislation, go to: www.legislation.nt.gov.au; for Commonwealth, go to: www.commlaw.gov.au)
3. Other sourcesNSW Judicial Commission, Criminal Trial Courts Bench Book accessible at http://www.judcom.nsw.gov.au/publications/benchbks/criminal  

Assumed Knowledge

- A law degree (JD or LLB) or - completed the foundational courses in LLM. Note that this course is an advanced criminal law course and engages with criminal law principles in depth as well as other areas of scholarship, and may be challenging for students who have not completed criminal law and procedure in an Australian law school.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $4740
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $6000
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

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