Lecturer: Jill Hunter (2013)
1. What is the course about?
The Criminal Trial builds on what students learn in compulsory courses about trial process. It is a course designed to develop students’ understanding of the trial through an exploration of various issues that change from year to year. Typically they include topics such as advocacy’s impact on the trial, the significance and role of juries in our trial process; social and psychological impacts on juries (including the role of popular culture); the role and impact of judges; the role and impact of the prosecutor (and charging practices); challenges in defending; how history has shaped the criminal trial; and witness issues (psychological and social). We also offer a class on coroners’ courts. These have nothing to do with criminal trials, but they are a good vehicle for comparing adjudicative goals and structure. This is a course that can be taken before or after Court Process, Evidence & Proof because it is a course about understanding trial dynamics, not a course on more law.
2. Why does this subject interest you?
Nicholas Cowdery and Jill Hunter teach this course. We both have many decades (separately and between us) practising and teaching in criminal justice. Nick brings decades of criminal trial practice and oversight of prosecution conduct. Jill brings decades of research and teaching in most facets of criminal trial process. We both enjoy teaching about the criminal trial because it embraces key aspects of human behaviour in a very challenging context, namely where a lot is at stake and where procedural rules are under pressure every step of the way. Also, the criminal trial can involve every sector of society – from the most vulnerable to the most powerful. In short, exploring the theoretical and sociological underpinnings of the trial in practice is always fascinating.
3. Any advice to give for students interested in taking this course?
The Criminal Trial is a course that stimulates and engages students with an interest in criminal law practice, or just an interest in justice. Students will get a number of opportunities to speak with and hear from leading practitioners and to gain unique insights into the criminal trial. Put simply, this course links criminal justice theory with its practice.
4. How will this course be relevant in the future?
The course does not date – the conduct of criminal trials changes only slowly over time. Students will have knowledge that will equip them for understanding courtroom practice with greater depth and confidence.