Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Criminal Law: Theory and Doctrine (Semester One) (Renamed from Criminal Law: History and Theory) LAW4148

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Law
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course is designed to deepen students' knowledge of underlying theories of criminal law and criminalisation. 


Recent years have seen significant development in the number of criminal offences introduced, with a number of these offences now targeting behaviour at earlier stages of offence perpetration.


In this module we consider claims that we are experiencing overcriminalisation and will consider the appropriateness of attributing criminal liability to certain acts at certain stages.


We will also consider the underlying value judgments and of the criminal law.


This 20-credit course will be taught over 8 seminars lasting 2 hours each. Seminars will occur on a weekly basis.

Requirements of Entry

Admission as a visiting law student

Excluded Courses

Criminal Law: Theory and Doctrine (LAW4010)




Essay (40%) and Examination (60%).


2500-word essay 


60-minute examination in December - this will involve students answering 2 questions from a choice of 4.

Main Assessment In: December

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below.

Course Aims

1. To analyse patterns of liability in the development of particular crimes.

2. To understand a range of different theoretical approaches to understanding the criminal law and its historical development.

3. To analyse critically the institutional and theoretical development of Scots criminal law.

4. To develop an understanding of a range of comparative materials on criminal law.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

The course aims to offer students the opportunity to:

1. gain familiarity with a range of theoretical and historical approaches to the criminal law,

2. develop their ability to critically evaluate these approaches,

3. analyse primary and secondary sources on the criminal law in the light of these approaches,

4. develop and articulate their own understanding of the merits of these approaches.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Passing both points of assessment