UCL Faculty of Laws


Criminal Law and Human Rights (LAWS0246)

This course examines how the Human Rights Act 1998 has affected the criminal law in England and Wales.

We adopt a selective and thematic approach to the subject (see below, module syllabus). Pervasive themes of the course are the impact of human rights on criminal law, the scope and control of discretion, and the coherence of the law in terms of underlying theory. Active participation is encouraged in seminars.

We would emphasise that:

  1. Students from numerous non-English jurisdictions have taken the course and performed very well. All interested students should be aware that there is often scope for argument in criminal law as to what the current law is (as well as what it should be). This means you will frequently need to read a lot of cases in order to discern what the relevant principles are.
  2. Many of the issues in the course transcend national boundaries and will be relevant to students from jurisdictions with different procedural traditions. For example, some of the procedural rights we discuss have constitutional status in many jurisdictions.
  3. The skills of analysis and critique developed on the course, in particular the types of arguments which may be raised in deciding whether a particular procedural rule engages and complies with a broadly defined right, will be transferable to other legal contexts and to other jurisdictions.

Indicative Module Syllabus

  • The paradigm criminal process and alternatives to it
  • Bail decisions and risk assessment
  • Police powers of stop and search, detention and arrest
  • Prosecutorial decision-making
  • Entrapment and intelligence led policing
  • Hearsay and the right to a fair trial
  • Reverse burdens of proof and the presumption of innocence
  • Exclusion of evidence and abuse of process
  • Appeals
  • Finality in the criminal process
  • Sentencing 1 - guidelines and proportionality
  • Sentencing 2 - deterrence and dangerous offenders
  • Sentencing 3 – retrospective punishment
  • Behaviour orders
  • Terrorism 1 -TPIMs and Prevent
  • Terrorism 2 - offences and sentencing
  • Criminal law in a pandemic
  • Official secrets and the public interest
  • Free speech and hate crime
  • Student debate and key themes

Recommended Materials

There is no core text for the course. The closest is Campbell, Ashworth and Redmayne, The Criminal Process (5th ed, OUP 2019).

Reading from journals and case law is provided with the seminar materials each week.

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have made their module selections upon enrolment.

Preliminery Readings

There is no required preliminary reading. If you have access to the following sources, they may give you an idea about your level of interest in the topic and introduce you to some of the more difficult themes of the course.

  • A Cornford and A Petzsche, ‘Terrorism Offences’ in K ambos et al, Core Concepts in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice (CUP 2020)
  • J Jackson “The Effects of Human Rights on Criminal Evidentiary Processes: towards Convergence, Divergence and Realignment” 68 (2005) Modern Law Review 737
  • Attorney General's Reference (No.3 of 2000), Re, R v Looseley [2001] UKHL 53 [2001] 1 W.L.R. 2060.

Key information

Module details
Credit value:45 credits (450 learning hours)
Convenor:Rory Kelly
Other Teachers:David Ormerod
Teaching Delivery:Face to Face Seminar
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only


Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in Law and Social Justice;
LLM in Human Rights Law
Practice Assessment:TBD
Final Assessment:6,000 Word Essay (100%)