LW6014 - Introduction to Comparative and International Criminal Law

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will develop critical understanding of substantive criminal law of the major legal systems of the world. You will learn different methods and techniques of comparative law and its significance to the development of domestic criminal law as well as to the work of the International Criminal Tribunals, namely, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The module will take a critical look at the elements of crimes, individual criminal responsibility, and modes of participation from comparative and international criminal law perspectives.

This module covers the following topics:

• Introduction to Comparative Criminal Law;
• Comparative Analysis of Mens Rea Standards in Common Legal Systems, Romano/Germanic Legal Systems, Islamic Legal Traditions and International Criminal Law
• Comparative Analysis of Different Modes of Participation in Criminal Offences with Particular Focus on Joint Criminal Enterprise in Common Law Systems and Co-Perpetration & the Control Over the Crime Theory in German Criminal Law and their Application by International Criminal Courts and Tribunals
• Elements of International Crimes, i.e. Genocide and Crimes against Humanity
• General Principles of Law in the Jurisprudence of the ICTY, ICTR and ICC: Examining the Relevant Case Law of these Tribunals and the Techniques adopted by International Judges in their Search of General Principles of Law Derived from National Legal Systems of the World

How will I learn on this module?

There will be 24 lectures on this module and 6 two hour small group sessions. You will be supported by a module handbook which outlines the activities (independent study/reading, self evaluative tasks, mock trials, informal practice assessments) throughout the module.

Direct learning will centre on detailed and up-to-date learning materials which will be available via the module dedicated e-Learning (eLP) site and will include guided reading using electronic reading lists, self-evaluative tasks as well as opportunities to engage with your tutor and fellow students. You will have the opportunity (optional) to participate in a mock trial using our recreated courtroom. You will also have the opportunity (optional) to join our study visit to the International Criminal Courts at the Hague, the Netherlands.

Independent learning will centre on you identifying further reading and research to provide deeper/broader knowledge and understanding of substantive aspects of comparative and international criminal law.
You will be provided with detailed feedback on your formative and summative assignment for this module, as part of your reflective development, such feedback can be utilised in the preparation of subsequent module assessments you will be undertaking during your studies. You are therefore able to demonstrate self-reflection and reflective practice within the module and on the programme as a whole, with feedback of appropriate quality and the positive application of formative feedback on learning.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

The University is well-placed to support you in learning and research with an excellent library and teaching facilities, access to on-line legal database and resources and appropriate software.

This module is designed and will be managed by your designated Module Tutor who will be responsible for guiding you in your engagement and learning on the module. All relevant materials and instructions will be accessible on-line through the module elp site, maintained by your Module Tutor, who will also provide updates on issues of current legal significance. You may communicate with your Module Tutor or seminar tutor by e-mail or telephone or face during teaching sessions or by appointment and are encouraged to make contact if you encounter any difficulties relating to any aspect of the module.

Academic support is also available through formative and summative feedback on assignment and a module teaching and learning plan (TLP) detailing delivery structure and any University requirements.

The Administration and Student Liaison teams are responsible for the non-academic administration of the module, such as receiving your completed assignment, returning your marked assignment and recording your marks. They will contact you throughout the duration of your module about assignment hand-in dates and other issues.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
At the end of the module you will have:
• developed knowledge and a critical understanding of substantive aspects of comparative criminal law in the major legal systems of the world and how international judges and practitioners from different legal schools of thoughts undertake such comparative approach in dealing with international crimes.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
At the end of the module you will have:
• developed an ability to conduct rigorous and independent comparative legal research relevant to substantive aspects of criminal law and international criminal law; selecting, using and applying the relevant materials to identify legal issues, construct rational and sound arguments and present accurate legal information clearly, coherently and substantiated by authority.
• developed your oral and presentation skills by taking active part during seminars and during the mock trial (optional).

How will I be assessed?

Formative assessment you will be required to summit a formative essay which normally should not exceed 1,000 words and you will be provided with feedback that can be utilised in the preparation of the summative essay.

Summative assessment will be undertaken on an individual basis by way of assignment which constitutes 100% of the marks for this module. This assignment aims to encourage a deep and critical approach to learning, developing an ability to think widely about the issues presented within the module and to explore these in-line with directed and independent learning.

The specific nature of the assignment may vary and may include an essay question or problem based scenario with a maximum word count 2,500.

Assessment criteria are provided to enable you to understand what is expected of you and how you will be judged on your performance.

You will be provided with appropriate written feedback, and, as part of your reflective development, such feedback can be utilised in the preparation of subsequent module on the programme.


Criminal law



Module abstract

Can we claim duress in a murder case? Or in a murder case as a crime against humanity? Why is dolus eventualis (a mens rea standard) sufficient to trigger the criminal responsibility for murder in South Africa and other Romano/Germanic legal systems but not in the criminal law of England and Wales? Is ‘brainwashing’ a legal defence in any of the major legal systems of the world? Does it amount to diminished responsibility, insanity or duress? What are the constituent elements of murder under domestic law, as crime against humanity and as the crime of genocide? Is there specific technique or method international judges have to adopt in their search for general principles of law recognised by the major legal systems of the world? In answering these questions you will critically engage with research outputs as part of your research-rich learning, drawing from Northumbria’s extensive on-line databases and library facilities. You will be assessed by researched assignment (100%) which will consolidate your understanding of international and comparative criminal law and develop your skills of critical analysis.

Course info

UCAS Code M101

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Northumbria Law School

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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