module specification

LL6054 - Penal Policy (2020/21)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2020/21
Module title Penal Policy
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School Guildhall School of Business and Law
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   Research Project 2,500 - 3,000 words
Running in 2020/21
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Thursday Afternoon

Module summary

This module provides an introduction to theories of punishment from a criminological and sociological standpoint. It also deals with aspects of sentencing practice and procedure and allows students to participate in sentencing simulation exercises and debates. Certain categories of offender (e.g. young offenders, women) are considered in depth. Finally, the issue of penal reform, including restorative justice, is addressed in the light of the most recent initiatives in the field.

The course includes:

• an introduction to theories of punishment and their historical roots with an emphasis upon critical discussion of the conceptual positions that underscore the system.

• an introduction to the range of sentencing options available to the courts and an awareness of the considerations that confront sentencers in making sentencing decisions.

• techniques for the presentation of arguments relating to sentencing

• a discussion of the institutional experiences of different categories of offenders in a range of penal institutions

• a general discussion of the possibilities for reform of the penal system

Prior learning requirements



Legal Ideology: an overview of leading legal ideologies             LO 1 and 2

Natural law
Feminist theory
Ethical theory.

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Learning and Teaching Strategy

Weekly two-hour lecture and one-hour seminar.

The lecture will be used for:

Dissemination of knowledge through an overview of each topic with detailed guidance on appropriate aspects;
An introduction to relevant academic literature;
Guidance on learning strategies;
Use of blackboard and IT resources;
Whole group questions and discussion.

The seminar will be used for:

Development of skills necessary to attain the module learning outcomes through:
Written and oral questions/answers designed to reinforce fundamental rules/principles/cases;
A range of step by step writing exercises;
IT tasks such as research of cases and statutes
Legal writing

Blended Learning

All learning materials, previous examination questions and sample Q/A’s will be on blackboard for use in directed private study.

Student engagement will be encouraged in both lectures and seminars through weekly use of Weblearn for access to all of the above materials.

There will be required use of the professional legal databases, especially Westlaw and Lexis Library, for legal research

Opportunities for reflective learning/pdp

Each weekly seminar will contain space for students to reflect on what they have learnt in relation to the overall syllabus. There will be frequent feedback opportunities structured into the timetable and a range of sample answers posted onto Weblearn.


Employability strategy will aim to acquaint students with a range of employment avenues both in the legal profession and in those professions into which legal qualifications and skills are transferable. This module will be of particular relevance to students interested in working in the fields of social and restorative justice.

Students’ Study Responsibilities

The need for attendance, punctuality, preparation and engagement will be emphasised with particular reference to written and IT research, problem-solving, team-work, discussion, debate and critical awareness of the subject.

Learning outcomes

On completing the module, students will be able to

1. Evaluate and apply the main considerations facing sentencers to simulated sentencing situations and by deciding on an appropriate sentence

2. Demonstrating their ability to present arguments relevant to critical debates relating to theories of punishment and reform of the penal system through analysis, synthesis and critical judgment.


Assessment strategy

Research Project (2,500 – 3,000 words)

The Research Project is in two parts.

The first part is to give a presentation on a sentencing exercise

For the second part, the student will write a 2,500 – 3,000 word paper on two theoretical aspects of penal policy (one to be based on the sentencing exercise from the presentation).


Core Texts:

Ashworth, A, Sentencing and Criminal Justice (Cambridge University Press)

Other Texts:

Ashworth, A, A von Hirsch, & J Roberts, Principled Sentencing: Readings on Theory and Policy, (Hart Publishing)
Cavadino, M, & J Dignan, The Penal System: An Introduction (Sage)
Easton, S, & C Piper, Sentencing and Punishment: The Quest for Justice, (Oxford University Press)
Garland, D, Punishment and Modern Society, (Oxford University Press)
Lacey, N, C Wells, & O Quick, Reconstructing Criminal Law, (Cambridge University Press)
Maguire, M, R Morgan, & R Reiner, (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, (Oxford University Press)
Newburn, T, Crime and Criminal Justice Policy, (Longman)
Norrie, A, Punishment, Responsibility and Justice: A Relational Critique, (Oxford University Press)
Tonry, M, & R Fraser (eds.) Sentencing and Sanctions in Western Countries, (Oxford University Press)


Electronic Databases:

Lexis Library