Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

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Unit Overview


Criminal law reflects the values society protects through a punitive system of sanctions. It therefore requires an ongoing engagement with ethical, social and political perspectives. It emphasises the underlying moral questions which criminal law confronts, and the wider context within which it operates and the way in which the legislature and the courts react to perceived social problems. The unit explores and critically assesses core concepts which underlie criminal responsibility, and relates these concepts to substantive criminal offences, defences and principles of criminal responsibility. As Western Australia has a criminal code, it considers these concepts within a statutory context, although it also examines other sources of criminal law to provide a wider insight into the construction of criminal liability. It also develops skills in legal problem solving and case analysis.

In this course we are studying the Australian criminal law that derives from England and more generally Western societies. There are, of course, Aboriginal laws that adjudicate harms committed by one person against another that did and continue to operate in Western Australia.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face

Students are able to (1) demonstrate a sound knowledge of (a) the rules of substantive criminal law with respect to the definition of core criminal offences; (b) the rules relating to the various excuses and defences; (c) the principles of criminal responsibility; (d) aspects of the criminal process with a primary emphasis on the trial and appeal processes in Western Australia; (e) principles of statutory interpretation, and the relationship of the Criminal Code to case law; (f) the hierarchy of the courts and the doctrine of precedent; (2) demonstrate an insight into, and an ability to critique (a) the ethical, social and political context in which criminal law offences, excuses and defences develop; (b) issues concerning the position of disadvantaged persons within the criminal justice system; (c) the issues surrounding past law reform and the need for future law reform; (d) the ethical issues associated with the prosecution and defence of criminal cases; (3) demonstrate the ability to (a) analyse a hypothetical factual scenario and identify and articulate the relevant factual and legal issues raised; (b) understand and analyse statutory provisions; (c) read and analyse cases, including identifying the ratio of case; (d) explain the relevance of cases from different jurisdictions in solving criminal law problems; (e) critically evaluate the scope of the criminal law and its practical impact and operation; (4) demonstrate an ability to (a) conduct legal research on a topical area of criminal law, having regard to historical and social influences; (b) use and cite relevant primary and secondary sources, including scholarship, which focuses on criminal law; and (5) (a) articulate legal arguments in a clear and concise manner; (b) participate meaningfully in group discussions on criminal law cases and issues; (c) present oral commentary and submissions clearly and relevantly.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) tutorial participation; (2) assignment; and (3) final examination. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Stella Tarrant
Unit rules
LAWS4101 Foundations of Law and Lawyering
Contact hours
4 hours per week

T Crofts, et al, The Criminal Codes: Commentary and Materials, 7th edition, Lawbook Co. 2018

E Colvin J McKechnie and J O'Leary, Criminal Law in Queensland and Western Australia: Cases and Commentary, 8th edition, LexisNexis, 2018

K Burton, T Crofts and S Tarrant, Principles of Criminal Law in Queensland and Western Australia, 3rd edition, Thomson Reuters, 2020

J Devereaux and M Blake, Criminal Law in Queensland and Western Australia, 10th edition, Lexis Nexis, 2016.

  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.