CR4002 - Introduction to the Criminal Justice System

APPLY NOW BOOK A VIRTUAL OPEN DAY Add to My Courses Register your interest / Course PDF

What will I learn on this module?

Criminal justice is rarely out of the news: there is a regular stream of stories alleging that conditions in prisons are too comfortable, that the courts are not handing out sufficiently harsh sentences, that people are being released from prison when they are still a danger to society, that young offenders can ignore the law and that police officers have been involved in misconduct. In this module you will look behind the headlines and understand what the agencies of the criminal justice system do, the constraints that they operate under and the historical developments that led to their current situation. You will go on a journey through criminal justice from arrest by the police, to the decision to prosecute and appearing in court, to punishment either in prison or the community and (in the case of the most serious offences) release from prison by the parole board. You will also consider elements of criminal justice that fall outside this process: the promotion of community safety, the system for dealing with young people who offend and the method of correcting injustices that are associated with criminal justice agencies.

How will I learn on this module?

The teaching format on this module will be lectures and seminars. Lectures will facilitate your learning by presenting factual information about the historical origins and current situation of agencies of the criminal justice system, inviting you to place this information in the context of relevant bodies of theory, discussing case studies that help to illustrate how some of the issues discussed impact on individuals, inviting you to express your opinion by voting on key points of controversy and supplementing the formally presented material with short pieces of film. Seminars will involve activities that encourage you to apply the information that has been presented in the lecture to practical situations. This will be achieved by activities such as groups of students being asked to present different sides of an argument, individuals commenting on controversial statements about criminal justice, discussion of the most appropriate course of action for the criminal justice system to take in individual cases and students choosing between different possible methods of delivering criminal justice.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Your learning on the module will provide you the basic knowledge of the whole criminal justice system in preparation for studying some parts of it in more detail in later modules. The discussion of relevant theories will also strengthen your ability to link practical questions to more abstract concepts: a skill that will be developed throughout your academic programme. This module will develop a range of Intellectual / Professional Skills and Abilities, with particular importance attached to the application of criminological knowledge and enquiry to crime, justice and victimisation in order to identify appropriate solutions to social problems which are sustainable and justifiable. For example, you will be asked to consider whether specific approaches to youth crime are more reflective of the welfare or justice perspectives and to evaluate the long term benefits of these approaches, facilitating reflection on the helpfulness of the perspectives.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:

There are a number of key texts that cover large areas of the criminal justice system; you should read at least one of these. There is also specialist reading about each area of the system that is covered; you should aim to read at least one of the recommended books or journal articles for each area. In addition, you will be required to read and analyse material relating to one area of the criminal justice system, and the skills needed to work in it, for the second assignment.

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:

1. Awareness of the historical development of different elements of the criminal justice system, showing how their development reflects different theories and perspectives and changing social, economic and political contexts.

2. Awareness of the current functions and challenges facing key criminal justice agencies.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

1. Independent study skills, including the ability to search, critically read, synthesise and analyse a range of sources of information.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

1. Sufficient knowledge and confidence to form, present and defend a view on key criminal justice debates.

How will I be assessed?

There will be two elements to the summative assessment of this module:

A 30 question multiple choice exam, which examines students’ knowledge of the criminal justice system and the relationship between different academic theories/concepts and practical developments (30%).

A 2,000 word report where students reflect on academic literature about the development, current operation, effectiveness and challenges faced by a key criminal justice agency.





Module abstract

Please find details of this module in the other sections provided.

Programme Framework for Northumbria Awards Research Rich Learning Design Pillar

This is a research led module where you will learn about studies that have been conducted by members of the academic staff of the department in areas such as prisons, probation, the transitions between youth and adult justice systems and the development of different systems for dealing with complaints against the police.

Course info

UCAS Code C8M9

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full time/4 years full time with optional study abroad year

Department Psychology

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2021

Fee Information

Module Information

Current, Relevant and Inspiring

We continuously review and improve course content in consultation with our students and employers. To make sure we can inform you of any changes to your course register for updates on the course page.

Your Learning Experience find out about our distinctive approach at

Admissions Terms and Conditions -
Fees and Funding -
Admissions Policy -
Admissions Complaints Policy -