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LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

Please note that due to high demand applications for this programme will now close on 28 February 2020.

The LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice is designed for those who wish to pursue a career in criminal justice, policy work, or further research in the area.

Students studying

This masters programme aims to provide you with an advanced knowledge and understanding of the key concepts and theories underpinning criminal law and criminal justice and how they operate in practice. It will cover the following core areas of criminal law and criminal justice:

  • current issues and contemporary debates in criminal law and criminal justice;
  • fundamental principles of substantive and procedural criminal law;
  • criminalization;
  • international, transnational and European criminal law;
  • sexual offending;
  • global crime and insecurity;
  • the penal process; and
  • different approaches to understanding and critiquing criminal laws and criminal justice, including doctrinal, comparative, theoretical and socio-legal methods

Criminal law and criminal justice underpin many contemporary debates in today’s society, such as the legality of assisted dying, the detention and punishment of individuals under recent terrorism legislation, and the treatment and punishment of sex offenders. These are crosscutting debates that resonate across jurisdictions.

The LLM would be useful to students who intend to enter a career in criminal justice, e.g. as a legal practitioner with a focus on criminal law, or as a member of the police, prison or probation services. It also provides a career development opportunity for those already working in these fields.

The LLM can also provide a grounding for students who would like to engage in policy work related to criminal law and justice, e.g. as a member of the civil service, a non-governmental organisation or a law reform body.

Finally, the LLM would provide a strong basis for future postgraduate research, such as doctoral study, in the areas of doctrinal or theoretical criminal law, criminal justice, or social policy.

At Edinburgh Law School we have an expertise base that encompasses a diverse range of approaches to criminal law and criminal justice, including theoretical, doctrinal, socio-legal, comparative and critical approaches.

Academics teaching on the LLM degree in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice are active researchers in the field and are involved in policy development and law reform at a national, European, and international level. Their research also informs their approach to teaching, ensuring that students studying on this LLM will benefit from this world-leading research.

By joining this LLM you will become part of an extremely active community.

We run a fortnightly crime and justice seminar series during the year, at which guest speakers (some of whom feature on the reading lists of the criminal law and criminal justice courses) present their recent work.

There are also very proactive groups within the School who arrange legal theory, constitutional law and international law events.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice please don't hesitate to contact us.

This programme can be taken full-time over one year, or part-time over two years (due to current UKVI regulations, the part-time programme is only available to UK and EU students). It offers a wide range of subjects that deal with various aspects of private law from a comparative perspective, with the possibility of choosing additional courses so as to enable you to tailor the LLM to meet your specific interests.

The programme consists of 180 credits, comprising taught courses worth 120 credits (60 credits per semester) and a 10,000 word dissertation worth 60 credits. Full programme details are available on the University Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study website.

View full programme and course information for the LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

Courses shown below are scheduled to run in the 2019/20 academic year and listed for illustrative purposes. With the exception of compulsory courses, depending on demand, space on specific courses may be limited.

You must take these courses:

  • Current Issues in Criminal Law (20 credits)

    This course examines current issues, debates and trends in criminal law. It introduces you to important developments in criminal law and the criminal process; to the controversies and debates surrounding these developments; and to the broader changes that they represent in the criminal justice field. The course begins by exploring questions of criminalisation: the changing scope of the criminal law, and debates over what conduct should and should not be made criminal. It then turns to examine developments in the law relating to criminal procedure and evidence; and finally to sentencing and other consequences of criminal conviction. The precise content of the course will change year on year, in response to new developments. However, at least some topics from each of these areas will be covered in any given academic year.

  • General Principles of Criminal Law (20 credits)

    This course examines the general principles of the substantive criminal law. It focuses in particular on three areas of criminal law doctrine. First, it examines criminal conduct: the kinds of action, omission and harmful results for which one may be held criminally responsible. Second, it examines criminal culpability: intentional and unintentional forms of fault, and the possibility of criminal liability without fault. And third, it examines criminal defences: justifying and excusing factors that defeat criminal liability. Throughout, the course also considers the application of these principles to problematic cases, and to particular areas of the law (such as the law of homicide).
    In examining these issues, the course does not adopt the perspective of any single jurisdiction. Rather, it adopts a more general approach: examining issues that arise across different legal systems and traditions, and across different areas of the criminal law. To shed light on these issues, the course also introduces students to insights from comparative and theoretical criminal law scholarship.

You must select between 40 and 80 credits of the following courses:

  • Criminal Justice and Penal Process (20 credits)

    This course aims to provide students with critical insight of the institutions of criminal justice and to introduce some of the relevant policy frameworks, dilemmas and debates. The jurisdictions of Scotland and England and Wales will serve as the primary model for discussions, but an international, comparative approach is considered throughout. The course also has the aim of providing opportunities for students to practice the research skills necessary to explore and critically assess academic and policy research which informs current criminal justice approaches. Students will have the opportunity to observe criminal courts in action and to carry out their own observations on criminal justice processes. By the end of this course students should be able to describe the conceptual functioning of criminal justice and penal institutions; critically analyse these institutions and explain the rationale of key developments in policy and practice.

  • Global Crime and Insecurity (20 credits)

    The focus of the course is the definition, explanation and interpretation of global forms of crime, insecurity and injustice. This is tackled in a structure which examines issues of categorisation and definition first, before exploring a range of contexts in which crime and criminality may be researched, then examining particular forms of crime and finishing with questions of measurement and interpretation.
    The course focus is on policy and legal responses to international and global forms of crime, insecurity and injustice. This is tackled in a structure which examines issues a range of different policing, judicial and regulatory frameworks, with attention paid in each of these sessions to the underlying logic of the approach. Following this, various mechanisms through and contexts in which criminal justice policy might spread are examined. The course finishes with a case study of money laundering, but depending on the availability of staff, this could be replaced with any substantive crime issue which allows students the opportunity to draw together a number of the issues raised in earlier sessions.

  • International Criminal Law (40 credits)

    This course focuses on the study of selected foundational aspects of international and transnational criminal law and international co-operation in the administration of justice.

  • Mental Health and Crime (20 credits)

    The aim of this course is to examine the relationship between mental health and crime and explore issues relating to the appropriate treatment of mentally disordered offenders in the criminal justice system. Different forms of mental disorder will be analysed (including psychotic illnesses, personality disorders and the mental health problems associated with substance misuse) and their links to crime evaluated.
    Key objectives are also: to trace the history and development of mental health law; to explore the nature of criminal justice and other disposals for mentally disordered offenders (comparing Scotland with England/Wales); and to assess the nature and limits of offender profiling.
    A visit will be arranged to a medium secure unit located in Edinburgh, where students will meet staff and patients and gain an insight into clinical practice and the day-to-day running of a medium secure institution. The course will conclude with a mock trial in which students will act as prosecution, defence agents and jury and staff as judge, defender and expert witnesses.

  • Responding to Global Crime and Insecurity (20 credits)

    The focus of the course is on legal, political and policy responses to international and transnational forms of crime, insecurity and injustice. The course is delivered in two sections focusing first on transnational forms of organised crime and secondly on atrocity crime (broadly, those defined by international criminal law). A final session looks for contrasts and connections between these two parts.

  • Sexual Offending and the Law (20 credits)

    This course will examine contemporary approaches to the law of sexual offences in comparative perspective. Topics to be covered will include the definition of rape, the age of consent, the proper extent of criminalisation of consensual sexual conduct, evidential issues in the proof of sexual offences. The closing seminars of the course will bring these issues together by examining how law reform bodies in a variety of different jurisdictions have addressed the challenges they pose.

You will have the option to take between 0 and 40 credits of courses from different subject areas offered by the Law School, depending on availability and with the express permission of the Programme Director. Depending on demand, space on courses outside the core courses may be limited.

Full programme details, including core and optional courses is available on the University Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study website.

View full programme and course information for the LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

Having successfully completed 120 credit points of courses within the LLM, you will be ready to move onto a single piece of independent and in-depth research. The 10,000 word dissertation allows you to focus on a preferred topic from within the field of criminal law and criminal justice, normally based on a subject you have studied in one of your courses during the programme.

You will be assigned an academic dissertation supervisor who will provide you with support and guidance while you prepare and write your dissertation.

The dissertation is a challenging but rewarding endeavour, asking you to demonstrate a comprehensive grasp of the relevant literature and an ability to engage critically with a range of sources, drawing on the skills and knowledge you have developed during the course of the programme. Students are encouraged to show originality and evidence of independent thinking, whether in terms of the material used, or the manner in which it is presented.

The dissertation is written in the summer months (April to August) after the taught courses are successfully completed.

Please note that due to unforeseen circumstances or lack of demand for particular courses, we may not be able to run all courses as advertised come the start of the academic year.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice please don't hesitate to contact us.

Staff teaching on the core courses of the LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice for 2019/20 are experts in criminal law and criminal justice and often engage in research-led teaching.

Professor Gerry Maher QC - Programme Director 2019/20

Professor Gerry Maher QC was appointed Professor of Criminal Law in 2000. His first academic post was in the Department of Scots Law at Edinburgh University from 1976 to 1979. He was then lecturer and later senior lecturer in the Department of Jurisprudence at Glasgow University from 1980 to 1992. From 1992 to 2000 he held a chair as Professor of Law at Strathclyde, where he taught criminal law, commercial law, legal process, evidence, and international private law.

Professor Maher was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1987 and was a practising Advocate from 1989 to 1992. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 2003. He was a full-time Commissioner at the Scottish Law Commission from 2000 to September 2008. He was the lead Commissioner on many important law reform projects, including those on diligence, age of criminal responsibility, insanity and diminished responsibility, and rape and other sexual offences. His main research interests are criminal law and criminal process, international private law, legal process, and debt and diligence.

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Paul Behrens joined the faculty in 2012. His principal research interests lie in the fields of international law, constitutional law and EU law. In the area of international law, his particular interests concern international criminal law, diplomatic law and international humanitarian law.

Paul is an Associate of the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Leicester University and member of the Surrey International Law Centre. Together with the director of the Stanley Burton Centre, he is the founder of an interdisciplinary research initiative which hosted conferences on selected topics in the field of genocide studies, including an interdisciplinary expert meeting on genocidal intent (funded by the British Academy).

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Professor Sharon Cowan completed an LLB (Hons) from Strathclyde University, and an MPhil in Criminology from the University of Cambridge. She undertook two years as a researcher at the London School of Economics before going on to complete a PhD at Brunel University, London. Sharon was a lecturer at the University of Warwick for three years prior to her arrival at the University of Edinburgh in 2004.

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Chloë joined the Law School in September 2013. Prior to this, Chloë completed a PhD and Masters degree in Law at the University of Edinburgh and a Bachelor of Laws at the Universities of Glasgow and Sydney. She also spent a year working as a Legal Assistant at the Scottish Law Commission. Her main research interests include criminal law, legal theory, legal history, and the relationship between these areas.

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Dr Fiona Jamieson is Senior Teaching Fellow in Criminology and Director of the MSc Criminology and Criminal Justice degree programme at the School of Law. Her main research interests lie in sentencing and penal decision-making, punishment, judicial culture, the occupational culture of criminal justice organisations and qualitative research methods including narrative research.

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Richard Sparks is Professor of Criminology at the University of Edinburgh.From 2014-17 he was Head of the School of Law. He was from 2006-16 a founding Co-Director of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research.

Find out more about the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research.

Richard's main research interests lie in the relationships between penal policies and democratic politics; the sociology of punishment (especially imprisonment); public responses to crime and punishment; and the uses, abuses and non-uses of criminological knowledge in shaping public policy on crime and punishment.

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Andy joined the criminology team at the Law School in 2012 having previously lectured in Social Policy, also at the University of Edinburgh. He has previously worked with the Home Office, analysing crime data on the English regions and Wales, and with Cardiff University evaluating a multi-agency robbery reduction initiative in central Bristol. He holds degrees from the University of Edinburgh and Cardiff University covering Criminology, Politics, and Modern History.

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David Garland, broadly considered one of the world’s leading sociologists of crime and punishment, is professorial fellow in Criminology at Edinburgh Law School and Arthur T. Vanderbilt Professor of Law and professor of sociology at New York University. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1977 with a first-class honours degree in law and a PhD in Socio-Legal Studies in 1984. In 1978 he earned a masters degree in criminology from the University of Sheffield.

Professor Garland will visit the Law School in the 2018/19 academic year for two weeks (dates to be confirmed) during which time he will host a series of short seminars which are free and available to all our Postgraduate students. Please note that the seminar series is not core to the programme.

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Dr Cornford joined Edinburgh Law School in 2012 as Lecturer in Criminal Law and his main areas of research are criminal law and legal theory. His research to date has mostly focused on criminalisation, its justification and limits.

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Alistair Henry is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology and an Associate Director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, where he leads the Police Community Relations Network. His main research interests currently lie in the field of policing. In particular, he is actively interested in issues of governance and accountability, local and community policing, crime prevention and community safety, and partnership working between the police, other criminal justice organisations and local government.

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Richard Jones is Lecturer in Criminology at Edinburgh Law School. He has published on topics including the electronic monitoring ('tagging') of offenders, access control, border controls, computer crime, penal populism, the media, airport security, the use of force in policing, and surveillance theory. His current research centres on security, surveillance, the sociology of punishment, theoretical criminology, cyber security and cybercrime.

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Dr Leandro Mancano is Lecturer of EU Law. Leandro’s main research interests lie in EU Constitutional Law, EU Fundamental Rights Law, the law and policy of the EU Area of Freedom Security and Justice. Leandro’s publications focus on the interaction amongst different areas of law and policy, such as crime, migration, and human rights. His first monograph analyses the legislative and judicial approach of the EU in the fields of substantive and procedural criminal law, immigration, citizenship and free movement.

Before joining the University of Edinburgh, Leandro received his PhD from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Pisa). He has been visiting researcher at Queen Mary University of London, Université Libre de Bruxelles and the University of Copenhagen. Leandro is a member of the European Criminal Law Academic Network (ECLAN).

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The staff teaching on this programme are subject to change for 2020/21. Staff listed as on sabbatical will not be available to teach for the duration of their sabbatical.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice please don't hesitate to contact us.

Find out what it's like to study for an LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at Edinburgh Law School from our current and former students.

Elien, Belgium

Elien studied the LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice in the 2016-17 academic year. In this video she talks about her experience of studying the LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at Edinburgh Law School.

Julia studied the LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice in the 2017-18 academic year. Here she talks about her experience of studying for the LLM and life as a student in Edinburgh.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice please don't hesitate to contact us.

We recommend that you apply as early as possible; this is particularly important for students holding conditional offers (for example, you may need to allow sufficient time to take an English language test) and for overseas students who may need time to satisfy necessary visa requirements (for further, country-specific information, please consult the website of the University's Edinburgh Global) and/or to apply for University accommodation.

Apply now for September 2020 entry

Entry requirements

We require a minimum 2:1 honours degree from a UK university, or its international equivalent, in law or a social science subject. Entry to this programme is competitive. Meeting minimum requirements for consideration does not guarantee an offer of study.

If you have a non-UK degree, please check whether your degree qualification is equivalent to the minimum standard before applying.

Check your degree

Postgraduate study in the field of law requires a thorough, complex and demanding knowledge of English, so we ask that the communication skills of all students are at the same minimum standard.

Students whose first language is not English must therefore show evidence of one of the following qualifications below:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.5 in each module).
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 23 in each module).
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 176 in each module).
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III (with a pass in all four components).
  • PTE(A): total 67 (at least 61 in each of the Communicative Skills sections).
    Please note that PTE Academic will no longer be accepted for entry to the University for any degree starting after 30 September 2020.
    Find out more

Your English language certificate must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

We also accept an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). The UK Government's website provides a list of majority English speaking countries.

View the UKVI list of majority English speaking countries

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, or equivalent, that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about the University's English language requirements

Your application may not be successful if you do not currently satisfy any of these requirements; alternatively, you may be offered a place conditional on your reaching the satisfactory standard by the time you start the degree.

English language support

The University runs a series of programmes for English Language Education, including a pre-sessional English Language Programme intended to strengthen your English Language skills before you start your programme of study.

Find out more about English language support offered by the University

Please note that due to high demand the application deadline for this programme has changed and is now 28 February 2020.

We aim to review applications and make selection decisions throughout the cycle and we monitor application numbers carefully to ensure we are able to accommodate all those who receive offers. It may therefore be necessary to close a programme earlier than the published deadline and if this is the case we will place a four-week warning notice on the relevant programme page.

Please note that the deadline for meeting the conditions of an offer is 15 August 2020.

(Revised 24 January 2020 to update application deadline.)

Applications are made online via the University Application Service, EUCLID.

Please follow the instructions carefully and make sure that you have included the following documentation with your application:

  • Degree certificates showing award of degree.
  • Previous academic transcripts for all past degree programmes (please upload the full transcript showing results from all years of study).
  • A reference in support or your application. The reference should be academic and dated no earlier than one year from the start of study on the LLM programme.
  • Evidence of English language proficiency, if required.

If you are currently studying for your degree or you are not in a possession of an English test result you may still apply to the programme. Please note that it is your responsibility to submit the necessary documents.

After your application has been submitted you will be able to track its progress through the University's applicant hub.

Application processing times will vary however the admissions team will endeavour to process your application within four to six weeks of submission. Please note that missing documentation will delay the application process.

You will be informed as soon as possible of the decision taken. Three outcomes are possible:

  • You may be offered a place unconditionally
  • You may be offered a conditional place, which means that you must fulfil certain conditions that will be specified in the offer letter. Where a conditional offer is made, it is your responsibility to inform the College Postgraduate Office when you have fulfilled the requirements set out.
  • Your application may be unsuccessful. If your application has not been successful, you can request feedback from us or refer to our guidance for unsuccessful applicants, which explains some of the common reasons we why we reach this decision.
    View the University's guidance for unsuccessful applicants

Please note that if you receive an offer of a place to study the LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice and later decide that you do not want to accept your place, we do not allow deferrals. In this case you would have to reapply for the following academic year.

You can find full and detailed application guidance on the University's website.

Find out more about applying to the University of Edinburgh

The University’s terms and conditions form part of your contract with the University, and you should read them, and our data protection policy, carefully before applying.

University of Edinburgh admissions terms and conditions

Apply now for September 2020 entry

Contact us

If you have any questions about applying to the LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice please don't hesitate to contact us.