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Comparative Justice Systems


Admission requirements



Why compare laws? Why compare Justice Systems?

Comparing differences and similarities of different justice systems contributes to a better understanding of foreign legal systems, broadens our understanding of how legal rules work in context, and helps us reflect critically on our justice system and legal history. Comparative legal research is the study of the relationship between legal systems or between rules of more than one system.

This course focuses on the study of justice systems from a comparative perspective. It introduces students to different justice systems, with a special focus on common law and civil law jurisdictions. We will explore concepts of substantive and procedural criminal law, from the elements of crime and forms of participation to different systems of trial. Globalization and its role and influence on justice systems around the world will be explored. The role of supranational and international judicial institutions (European Court of Justice, International Criminal Court) in bringing different legal traditions together will also be examined.

Topics to be covered during the course include:

  • Sources of law in different legal systems

  • Aspects of various criminal justice systems

  • Concepts of substantive and procedural criminal law in a comparative perspective

  • International Criminal Justice

Course Objectives


After successful completion of this course, the students will be able to

  • Understand the importance of comparing legal and justice systems;

  • Identify and explain fundamental concepts and rules in justice systems in a comparative perspective;

  • Understand basic concepts of substantive criminal law and how crimes can be classified;

  • Debate various sentencing options and the role of punishment within the criminal justice system;

  • Understand differences and similarities between legal systems;

  • Compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of different justice systems

  • Discuss issues on international criminal justice


Building on the knowledge, the students will be able to:

  • Develop writing skills, by employing appropriate and academically accepted referencing;

  • Describe facts and explain legal reasoning and courts judgments;

  • Write and present orally a well-structured argument, using different sources and literature


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught in seminar format, including lectures, class discussion and student presentations. The course draws upon the field of criminal justice from a comparative and international perspective. It is expected that students will engage actively in class discussions and debates.

Assessment Method

  • In-class participation (15% of final grade)

  • Two reflective essays (30% of the final grade)

  • Group presentation (15% of the final grade)

  • Academic essay (40% of the final grade)

Reading list

A reading list will be made available before the course starts.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr Bernardo Ribeiro de Almeida