What you will study
This module draws upon case studies, case law, and constitutions in context to critically examine the relationship between the state and the individual. In the first half of the module you'll learn about the fundamental constitutional principles, alongside areas of administrative law, In the second half you'll be introduced to general principles of criminal liability and criminalisation before covering offences and defences, placing these in their socio-political and historical contexts.
You'll learn about the key features of the UK constitution in the context of a broader narrative about how constitutional arrangements evolve and change over time. The uncodified and incremental character of the UK constitution stresses its enduring and fairly static nature. As well as exploring the history of the UK constitution to highlight its evolution, you'll be introduced to a range of comparator constitutions from other jurisdictions which reveal the ways in which constitutional arrangements are shaped by and contingent on historical events.
You'll learn the key concepts underpinning the UK constitution including the rule of law, the separation of powers and parliamentary sovereignty. You'll analyse the rule of law as a principle that has developed over time and in different places, exploring its different possible meanings and consider the extent to which the UK constitution complies with its central ideas.
You'll also consider judicial review, the mechanism that allows state decisions to be challenged by individuals in the courts. This is an important area of administrative law, which helps maintain the rule of law by keeping public power in check. You'll see how this is incorporated into the constitutional arrangements of other states, before analysing the UK approach in more detail including the impact of human rights law in recent decades.
You'll cover the topic of sovereignty – supreme authority – and critically reflect on whether the reality of sovereign authority is different from the theory, and whether parliament is actually sovereign. You'll also consider various challenges to this conception of sovereignty, including from international law, the European Union and the break-up of states into smaller, independent territories.
You'll complete your study of public law by evaluating the effectiveness of the operation of the UK constitution in protecting some of its key stakeholders. You'll analyse whether and how the parliamentary process maintains constitutional values, the community is safeguarded through the oversight of the police and the individual is protected through the incorporation of human rights and civil liberties.
The study of criminal law begins by placing the law itself in context by looking at how and why certain actions are criminalised by the state. You'll explore the elements of a criminal offence and some of the general principles underpinning the criminal law, including the standards of conduct and mental states required to commit criminal offences.
You'll look in more detail at a series of violent offences and some of the defences that may be used to deny that the actions that would otherwise constitute a crime are unlawful. You'll analyse the common law offence of murder and its impact on the law relating to intention as well as considering different forms of manslaughter. You'll look at the areas of corporate criminal responsibility – how corporations are made liable under the criminal law, particularly for homicide – and criminal law reform, the process by which reforms to criminal law are proposed and accepted or rejected. You'll also be introduced to selected offences against the person including assault and aggravated assault, and will evaluate the law relating to sexual offences, particularly rape. As part of this you'll consider some of the wider political and social factors that impact on this complex area.
In the closing units of the module, you'll be asked to critically analyse aspects of the criminal law, such as theft and burglary, through an evaluation of the concept of property as a fundamental part of the law. You'll consider the expanding limits of the criminal law in relation to inchoate offences, where the offender begins but does not complete committing a full criminal offence, and the mechanisms used to hold those other than primary offenders accountable for criminal acts. The module concludes by bringing together aspects of public and criminal law to explore the social, political and legal contexts of human trafficking and modern slavery.
This module emphasises the critical and comparative analysis of public and criminal law so you'll understand not only the provisions of the law but also how they may be critiqued and reconceptualised and how similar concerns are tackled in other jurisdictions. It provides a broad context for your understanding of rules and principles that form the law in these areas. Alongside this you'll develop transferable legal and general study and employability skills. The activities and assessments you undertake will support the growth of personal and academic skills in areas such as communication, research, information technology, problem solving skills and self-reflection and appraisal.
If you are intending to use this module as part of the LLB, and you hope to enter the Legal Professions, you should read carefully the careers information on The Open University Law School website. There are different entry regulations into the legal professions in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. You should read the information on the website as it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet these requirements.