Lecturer: Alex Steel (2014)

What is the course about?

Advanced Criminal Law looks at a range of current issues in criminal law and criminology.  The topics change from year to year based on what’s current.  Often the classes involve the latest research by UNSW Law staff or guest speakers. In 2014 we covered the politics of law reform, commonwealth drugs law, one-punch crimes, sexting, using mobile phones in classes, identity crimes, the Australian Prisons Project, indigenous imprisonment, mental health and the criminal justice system and justice reinvestment.

Why does this subject interest you?

This is a great course because of the freedom to look at a range of issues and bring to that discussion insights from other courses.  As it’s an elective the discussions are really driven by student interests and there’s the flexibility to adapt it each semester.  There’s also the chance to write a longer research essay on a topic that interests you instead of cramming for an exam.

Do you have any advice to students who are interested in taking this course?

This course has a 25% class contribution assessment element because everyone is expected to make significant postings via the online forums. So it’s a great course for people with opinions who really want to engage with the broader social issues involved in criminal law – as well as the detailed law.  The trick is to do the readings looking for what you agree and disagree with – and then ventilate that on the forums and in class. Because of the online forums its hard to survive the course without doing the readings each week. Having an idea of the research essay you want to do before semester starts is also a good way to keep the stress levels lower.

Student: Sam Every (2014)

What did you enjoy most about the elective?

I enjoyed the broad variety of topics that are covered in this course. Every week is a new issue, which keeps the course varied and interesting. The issues that are covered are topical and there is an array of guest speakers who discuss their areas of speciality. There is ample opportunity for discussion and interaction with the content of the readings despite the large class size.

One of the highlights is the field trip to the Long Bay Correctional Centre. This - 8 - trip involves a guided tour around the facility and an amazing insight into the day- to-day experiences of both inmates and prison officers.

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging aspect of the course is the very thing that makes it enjoyable: how broad in scope the course is. There is enormous freedom to choose your own essay topic and develop a question which is of interest to you. You also really need to try and interact with all of the reading material in order to make a meaningful contribution in class or on Moodle. The reflective notes also require you to engage with the content and that is a good thing.

How will this course be relevant in the future?

If you are interested or passionate about criminal law this course gives you a great chance to look at the topics that you want to learn more about. The course covers a huge amount of issues that affect everybody in the entire community.

From controversial topics like sexting to serious questions such as how effectively law reform is carried out in New South Wales, there is something for everybody and the issues discussed are contemporary and relevant to the development of criminal law in the future.