This course explores criminal justice processes and institutions within society, paying particular attention to participants in the process and, either relying on current issues, or looking at differences across nations and across time through architecture. For convenience, the course uses the criminal trial (‘the mansion of justice' in Yale Kamisar's terms) as its focal point, but students are encouraged to explore criminal justice processes more broadly.
The course aims to enrich students' knowledge and understanding of the function and meaning of their own and other criminal justice systems in society and to build on the diversity of the student body in the Masters programme. It begins by introducing students to the role of culture in shaping the values, virtues and goals of criminal justice by exploring why and how, centuries ago, the French pursued justice for animals. Answering these questions helps us understand present day legal rules and practices. At the end of the course we finish, again with history. This time it is English legal history. We rely on themes to explore the role of belief systems, ritual, architecture and advocacy on the criminal trial.
Why some but not all, nations train judges and others focus on lay judges (jurors) also tells us about different legal traditions, as does the different way in which the accused is treated in legal traditions. These differences are not just matters of resourcing, they relate to the cultural perception of the accused, and in particular to whether he or she is perceived to be a central information source in the investigation of crime and in the actual criminal trial. A number of jurisdictions will be explored – Japan, France, the US and Australia in this respect (and also with a view to understanding the role of the victim in different jurisdictions). With victims, in the common law adversarial tradition the rights of the victim of crime struggle to gain foothold in a system that is defined by the State's relationship to the accused. This compares with Germany and France (for example) where the victim of crime has quite different experiences in trials compared to their common law equivalent.