An Introduction to Criminal Law: A textbook for criminal justice programs and students from Oxford University Press

An Introduction to Criminal Law: A textbook for criminal justice programs and students from Oxford University Press

Expected publication: 2021 in print and ebook editions.

The idea for this text grew from my years of teaching in an undergraduate criminal justice degree program and noticing that, over the years, students struggle with completing assigned readings. Students today typically juggle their post-secondary education with jobs, family responsibilities, mortgages, and personal life goals. When I was in undergrad, school was considered your full-time job; today it might be second or third on the list.

In addition to our students evolving over the years, so have our laws. Within the Canadian criminal justice system there is reform including how the system approaches its colonial foundations. When teaching this material, I see how imperative it is that educators and scholars also evolve in the ways in which we teach criminal law. We need to include various learning modalities, pedagogies, and voices, especially if we want to continue to engage the students of today, but especially if we want to effect change.

My vision is that this text is a medium for change – to support educators to change how they teach criminal law to criminal justice and criminology students – and to support all of us to walk the talk of reconciliation by acknowledging the truths. Canadian criminal law is rooted from British and French colonizers who came here about two hundred years ago and imposed their ways of law and order. Today’s criminal justice system may have evolved over the centuries, but it still retains its colonial roots. Therefore, I believe it is imperative that we teach how our laws (and the justice system) have impacted people of colour and Indigenous people.

This text is purposely crafted not for law school programs and courses. This text is intentionally directed to students within criminal justice and criminology programs at post-secondary colleges and universities across Canada. The text is written in a personal voice to make it reader-friendly. The text is an introduction to criminal law – not from the perspective of a lawyer – but written in a way to support educators and to inspire students to dive into the fascinating aspects of criminal law. And most importantly, it includes truthful information about our colonial justice system, and poses queries towards reconciliation.

The text is laid out in four parts. The chapters are laid out in a path a person charged with a criminal offence, and players they would interact with, would walk through the justice system. Part 1 is Foundations. This part has three chapters that lay the groundwork for students to understand the overall function of the law, a brief layout of the criminal justice system players, its elements including a brief history of our law’s colonial roots, a refresher on the Constitution Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as how defendants proceed through the justice system, and pre-trial procedures.

Part 2 is Liability and Causation. This part has only two chapters to parallel the two necessary elements for a conviction to any offence: actus reus and mens rea. Each chapter includes its relevant parts – the four components of actus reus and the five components of mens rea, as well as the difference between factual and legal guilt. And both chapters provide the prosecution’s and defendant’s perspectives.  Part 3 is Criminal Offences. This section includes chapters about a few certain offences and how the above principles are interpreted and how the above processes work. Although our Criminal Code is filled with thousands of offences, the offences included in this text are limited – it simply cannot include everything. Furthermore, these offences are chosen with intention because they are conventional crimes – they are most often pursued by the justice system and secondly, there are many recent cases and legislative advancements that will help us illustrate the function of the law to draw in the student. This section includes chapters on assault and sexual assault offences, homicide and criminal negligence offences, vehicle and property offences, and drug offences.