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Introduction to Criminal Justice


Available in English only

Admission requirements

Students should be in their second or third year of legal studies or of other disciplines affiliated with social sciences. In case of the latter, only students who already have some knowledge of crime, criminal law or criminal justice or those students who have a strong interest in these matters, are advised to enroll for this course.


Criminal Justice is a rapidly expanding field of academic study central to the research programme and mission of The Institute for Criminal Law & Criminology at Leiden University. The concept of Criminal Justice alludes to the system of principles, rules, practices, actors and institutions through which the state administers sanctions against socially undesirable behavior. At the same time, the concept addresses the soundness of the relationship between that system and the social reality in which it is called to operate. Therewith, the content of Criminal Justice is intrinsically – and complexly – inter- and multidisciplinary, which in turn means that the study of Criminal Justice requires a convoluted approach. This LLC will provide an introduction into both the content and methodology of Criminal Justice, therewith deploying the concepts of legitimacy, accountability and effectiveness as important leading concepts. As such, this LLC is well-aligned with the Criminal Justice Master (MSc) offered by the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology. The 5 ECTS course Introduction to Criminal Justice is an exploration of the historical development, current operation, and future trends of criminal justice. Emphasis will be placed on contemporary problems in the definition of law, the enforcement of law, strategies of policing, judicial systems, sentencing strategies, correctional practices, and emerging forms of justice. You are provided with a strong foundation of information about criminal justice. The course aims at providing both the essential content and the critical tools involved in understanding criminal justice. This course is up-to-date and appealing. You can take advantage of the vast resources available. You are directed to original sources and databases that augment information being presented in the course. The orientation of the course will also be comparative and ‘transnational’. This will allow for the development of not only insight into the themes which may be attached to Criminal Justice in the context of the national state, but also into the peculiar issues of the mobility of Criminal Justice problems and resolutions. I.e. why would a particular system or response to socially undesirable behavior ‘work’ in one country but not in another or on an international level? What determines the parameters of what is deemed to be socially undesirable behavior in a certain time or place? How can shared issues of Criminal Justice in the context of globalization – with a focus on ‘Europe’ – such as international terrorism or the problem of diminishing trust in the police or the criminal justice system as a whole, be understood and resolved? Contemporary issues of Criminal Justice will feature as illustrations of theoretical and methodological difficulties. In that regard, taking advantage of ‘location’, the history, structure, and performance of the unique aspects of the Dutch Criminal Justice system will also be deployed in analytical and comparative exercises. This will include themes such as (de)criminalisation choices in law and policy,, sanctioning, sentencing and correctional system strategies and the sustainability and workability of those choices, from legal and extra-legal perspectives such as criminology, political theory and sociology. . From a legal perspective, this LLC will focus on the interface between the field of criminal law and other fields of law involved in Criminal Justice, i.e. Human Rights and Constitutional Law, as well as on the influence of European decision-making on the (legal) criminal justice frameworks of EU member states.
The orientation of the course will further be ‘integral’, i.e. will look at the Criminal Justice system as a whole, addressing at the same time issues of legislation and policy from theoretical perspectives (such as the theme of emerging risk society and the culture of control), as well as issues of adjudication and execution.
The weekly outline of the course is as follows:

Course objectives

The aim of the LLC Introduction to Criminal Justice is to equip you with a sound understanding of Criminal Justice by providing an inter- and multidisciplinary programme addressing key institutions, processes and cross-national issues on crime (prevention), law and policy. A unique feature of the programme is its international comparative perspective, which involves an in-depth analysis of differences in Criminal Justice systems, legislation, and policies between various legal systems.

Achievement levels

The following achievement levels apply for this course:

  • You will have developed insight in themes and issues attached to Criminal Justice

  • You will be able to examine and discuss crime and justice as public policy issues

  • You will be able to examine and demonstrate an understanding of the framework for analyzing how society through the legislature, police, courts and corrections attempts to deal with the problem of crime.

  • You will have gained insight in relationships between legal structures and societal contexts in which they are to operate.

  • You will be able to critically assess and discuss developments within Criminal Justice on their legitimacy, necessity and effectiveness.

  • You will have developed competencies in multi- and interdisciplinary scientific analysis.

  • You will have developed competencies in developing and deploying suitable methodology in analyzing issues and successfully embedding responses and resolutions.


The timetable for this course will be made available at uSis.

Mode of Instruction

Attending the lectures and clinics is mandatory. You can only miss a lecture and/or clinic when you are able to provide the instructor with a valid note from your medical doctor, employer, family, etc. stating the reason for your absence. The Course will consist of 5 lectures and 5 clinics. During the clinics you are asked to analyze a certain issue pertaining to ‘Criminal Justice’ and, in the time of the session, by using various techniques to address that issue from the perspective of legitimacy, effectiveness and accountability


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 5

  • Names of lecturers: Prof. dr. P. Nieuwbeerta, Dr. F.P. Ölçer, Dr. M.A.H. van der Woude LLM MSc

  • Required preparation by students: You will read relevant articles in academic journals. As part of your portfolio, you must submit a short summary of the reading materials before the lecture, as well as formulate two questions which you will ask during the lecture about the material.


  • Number of (2 hour) clinics: 5

  • Names of instructors: Prof. dr. P. Nieuwbeerta, Dr. F.P. Ölçer, Dr. M.A.H. van der Woude LLM MSc

  • Required preparation by students: Depending on the specific weekly assignment, conducting literature research, designing resolutions for criminal justice related dilemmas and presenting findings orally as well as in academic writing

Assessment Method

Examination form(s)

  • Five (5) weekly assignments (50%)

  • An organized, complete and well-kept portfolio containing summaries of all reading materials, and at least two (2) in-depth theme related questions per week (so a total of 10 questions) (50%)

  • Both components – the weekly assignments and the portfolio – need to be passed with a grade of 5,5 or above.

  • In case you fail to pass (parts of) the course, you will have to take an oral resit and/or there will be an extra written assignment, depending on which part(s) you have failed

Submission procedures
Via Blackboard

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature and case law) for the course, the course information guide and the content of the lectures and clinics.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials


  • Zedner, L. (2004) Criminal Justice (Clarendon Law Series), Oxford: Oxford University Press

  • Selected academic articles pertaining to the content and methodology of Criminal Justice to be distributed via Blackboard.

Course information guide:

  • Will be made available on Blackboard.


  • All reading materials will be placed on Blackboard.


Students must register for courses and exams through uSis.
Students enrolled at another Dutch university than Leiden may obtain access to uSis, by first submitting the form Inschrijven als bijvak/gaststudent (only available in Dutch).

Contact information

  • Coordinators: Prof. J.P. van der Leun, Dr. F.P. Ölçer, Dr. M.A.H. van der Woude

  • Work address: KOG, rooms C113, C115, C116.

  • Contact information: Secretariat of the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, Ms. P. Noordeloos

  • Telephone number: 00 31 71 527 3506

  • Email:


  • Institute: Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Room number secretary: C 1.02

  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri 09:00-17:00


The language of this course is English.


Belangstellenden die deze cursus in het kader van contractonderwijs willen volgen (met tentamen), kunnen meer informatie vinden over kosten, inschrijving, voorwaarden, etc. op de website van Juridisch PAO.