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Criminal law and the courts

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This module employs a range of multi-media sources and engaging activities to immerse you in key issues and debates relevant to the Criminal Justice System of England and Wales. The module will focus on a range of criminal offences, such as murder and theft using real case studies, as well as aspects of criminal defences. You'll also be addressing themes of law reform, campaigning, inequality and human rights.

What you will study

The module begins by discussing a selection of myths in criminal law, clarifying how and whether these ring true, for example whether all criminal trials involve a jury. You'll see how cases are brought to court and why many crimes are never prosecuted at all.

You'll be introduced to:

  • different sources of law and explain the role of Parliament and the courts in developing criminal offences and defences
  • key criminal law concepts such as actus reus (wrongful act) and mens rea (blameworthy state of mind) through a case study of a real homicide case 
  • the law relating to a range of criminal offences such as murder, theft, criminal damage, and harassment.

Studying this module will also help to familiarise yourself with aspects of criminal defences with a particular focus on self-defence and duress.

The final part of the module explores youth justice, miscarriages of justice and double jeopardy. This will allow you to engage with critical review of the criminal law and help develop skills needed for onwards study.

Throughout the module you'll be encouraged to engage with themes of law reform, campaigning, inequality and human rights through a range of multi-media sources, interactive activities and module materials. You'll also be given opportunities to develop key skills such as reading for understanding, note-taking and summary writing.

Professional recognition

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 information on our Careers page. 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.

Entry requirements

This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for higher education and distance learning. It will give you the foundation knowledge and study skills to study law at a more advanced level (OU levels 2 and 3). By the end of the module you will be expected to be working at the level required of first-year undergraduate students.

What's included

You will be provided with the textbook Complete Criminal Law: Text, Cases and Materials (Loveless, Allen and Derry) and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access and tutor support.

You will need

You will have the option to record an oral presentation as part of your assessed work on this module. We strongly recommend that you use a headset with a microphone, as using an external or integrated microphone and speakers could result in a poor-quality recording.

Computing requirements

You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Online tutorials will be provided and recordings of these will typically be made available to students. While you’re not obliged to attend any of these tutorial events, you are strongly encouraged to take part.

You will also have a selection of additional online tutorials focussing on direct study support, library skills and specific assessment support.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying W111 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Criminal law and the courts starts twice a year – in February and October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2021. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2029.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
2 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
No examination
No residential school