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Criminology LA3025

Criminology is offered as an optional subject to students on the Standard Entry and Graduate Entry LLB programmes.

It is also offered for study as an Individual Module. (Credits from Individual Modules will not count towards the requirements of the LLB.)

Criminology examines the relationship between the individual who breaks the laws of the state and the state’s power to lay down laws and punish those who transgress them from a range of political, sociological, psychological and philosophical points of view.

Topics covered

  • Objectives and methods of criminology: The idea of a science of criminology. Basic dichotomies/controversies on nature and scope of criminology. Defining crime (legal and sociological conceptions). Historical development of criminology (in outline only). Classical and positivist schools. Criminology beyond the nation state. Sources of data: Official statistics and alternatives (e.g. self-report studies and victimisation surveys). Uses, defects and limitations of official data for purposes of research. Measures of success in law enforcement.
  • Criminological Theory: Crime as an individual phenomenon: legacies of classicism and positivism, rational choice, biological, psychological and psychiatric explanations, including idea of psychopathy. Crime as a social phenomenon: Anomie theory, Durkheim and Merton. Social disorganisation and social ecology. Concept of spatial justice. Matza, techniques of neutralization and ‘drift’. Interactionist perspectives. Labelling theory. Control theories. Marxism. Feminism, Foucault and technologies of the self. Crime as a cultural phenomenon: cultural criminology, moral panics and the media, Katz and seductions of crime, existentialism.
  • Institutional Framework of Law Enforcement: Philosophy and aims of punishment, including deterrence, treatment, ‘justice’, communicative and restorative models. Whether actual systems of punishment can be explained by philosophical justifications or sociological approaches (in outline). Community and official attitudes to punishment and treatment of offenders. Role of imprisonment and its consequences, conditions in prison, alternatives to prison, sanctions in the community. Police organisation and attitudes (in outline).

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • Understand the inter-disciplinary heritage of criminology and the influence this has had on the various schools of thought;
  • Describe the different sources of information available to academics, policy-makers and the public on crime;
  • Understand the contested nature of what is (and is not) considered to be ‘crime’;
  • Describe perspectives on the role of punishment and the different functions that it might be thought to serve.
  • Distinguish between different conceptual frames of reference and compare and contrast their strengths and weaknesses;
  • Engage with definitional and conceptual issues relating to crime, deviance and control;
  • Utilise a range of tools and resources available for the study of crime and its control.


3hr 15 mins unseen examination

Essential reading

The essential reading for this course is the subject guide and reading pack provided. The extracts are from:

  • Hopkins Burke, R. An introduction to criminological theory. (Devon: Willan Publishing, 2013) fourth edition [ISBN 9780415501736].
  • McLaughlin, E. and J. Muncie. The Sage dictionary of criminology. (London: Sage, 2012) third edition [ISBN 9781446200834].
  • Walklate, S. Understanding criminology: current theoretical debates. (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2007) third edition [ISBN 9780335221233].