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LCRM101 Introduction to Criminology OR LCRM102 Violence through History

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit will build on knowledge developed in introductory units and allow students to understand the interplay between mental disorder (mental illness, personality disorder, intellectual impairment) and the criminal justice system. This includes formal processes of long standing, including issues of fitness to stand trial and the approach to insanity; but also the relevance of mental disorder to such core features of criminal law as the need to prove a mens rea, the interplay with sentencing, and prosecutorial discretions. It will include material relevant to the need to protect persons with mental disorder, both as victims of crime and during any participation in the criminal justice system, including in their interaction with the police and the courts.

The aim of this unit is to provide students with the knowledge required to assess whether the criminal justice system responds appropriately to issues of mental disorder, given that reviews of prison populations invariably find high levels of mental disorder in the incarcerated population and that a significant number of persons with mental disorder are involved in the criminal justice system.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe key themes around the interplay between mental disorder and criminal justice (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA9)

LO2 - Evaluate approaches to societal responses to mental disorder and criminogenic behaviour (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Apply contemporary principles to case studies (GA1, GA3, GA7, GA8, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - Demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - Recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society

GA3 - Apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - Think critically and reflectively

GA5 - Demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession

GA6 - Solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - Work both autonomously and collaboratively

GA8 - Locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information

GA9 - Demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media


Topics will include:

  • A lay introduction to mental disorder and its forensic components that overlap with criminogenic factors, and its causes
  • The relevant human rights framework, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006
  • Historical and contemporary approaches to the defence of insanity
  • Historical and contemporary approaches to the special procedures for those with mental disorder, including fitness to stand trial
  • The relevance of mental disorder to the elements of criminal offending in the common law traditions, including:
  • Responsibility/automatism
  • Mens rea/fault states and the relevance of mental disorder
  • Defences
  • Sentencing and mental disorder, including
  • Special sentencing options for those with mental disorder, including when found unfit to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity
  • Mental disorder and risk
  • The protection of victims of crime who have mental disorder.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Students will undertake practical learning and assessments that focus on real-world problems and challenges with the goal of developing their problem solving, decision making and investigative skills with regard to issues of mental disorder and criminal justice. This unit engages students in active learning activities, such as reading, writing, discussion and problem-solving to promote analysis, synthesis and evaluation of class content or ACU Online 10 week asynchronous delivery mode. Students will also work collaboratively in groups to prepare and deliver a Criminal Justice Simulation. Collaborative learning is an important component of active learning and sits within a community of inquiry theoretical framework. It provides opportunities for a group of individuals to collaborate in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct personal meaning and mutual understanding.

This unit comprises 150 hours in total with a normal expectation of 36 hours of directed study and the total contact hours should not exceed 36 hours. Directed study might include lectures, tutorials, webinars, podcasts etc or ACU Online 10 week asynchronous delivery mode. The balance of the hours becomes self-directed study.

ACU Online

This unit uses an active learning approach to support students in the exploration of knowledge essential to the discipline. Students are provided with choice and variety in how they learn. Students are encouraged to contribute to asynchronous weekly discussions. Active learning opportunities provide students with opportunities to practice and apply their learning in situations similar to their future professions. Activities encourage students to bring their own examples to demonstrate understanding, application and engage constructively with their peers. Students receive regular and timely feedback on their learning, which includes information on their progress.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks have been explicitly created to address the identified Learning Outcomes for this unit (assessment of learning).

  1. Short Written Task. Students will be required to describe key themes arising from the human rights framework and its interplay with mental disorder. This may take the form of a short answer test, in-class ‘minute paper’ or other equivalent task.
  2. Research Essay. This assessment requires students to critically evaluate societal responses to the interplay between mental disorder and criminal justice. The research essay will allow students to engage with the scholarship on specific approaches to research and write a substantial essay that responds to a question that engages with key issues within mental disorder and criminal justice.
  3. Criminal Justice Simulation. Students will participate in a complex role playing exercise in which they will apply contemporary principles to case studies, such as (by way of illustration) rearguing important historical cases in light of contemporary standards or presenting a report to an international human rights body. This assessment will allow students to demonstrate their capacity to work collaboratively in the field of criminal justice and demonstrate a professional attitude, to the problems or task at hand. It will involve both written submissions and oral presentations, with students acting as (by way of illustration) advocates, judges, members of international human rights bodies.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Short Written Task: This assessment builds knowledge around the human rights framework and its interplay with mental disorder in the criminal justice context.



GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA9

Research Essay: This assessment develops skills around evaluating societal responses to mental disorder and criminal justice.


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9

Criminal Justice Simulation: This assessment requires students to work collaboratively to apply contemporary principles.


LO2, LO3

GA1, GA3, GA7, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

A list of required readings will be found in the Study Guide, which will be available for download on the unit website prior to the beginning of the teaching semester. It is expected that all required readings for a topic will be completed before the corresponding tutorial. These readings may include book chapters, journal articles and government reports.

Legislative regimes: and .

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:

A list of additional readings may also be uploaded periodically on the unit website. While these readings are not compulsory, they may assist in furthering your understanding of topics and are recommended.

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