Crim’s a bit difficult.
The concepts and all that are really quite easy, and the exam isn’t on too much content, really (we were lucky, the law on statutory larceny offences changed while we were learning, and that whole chunk was taken out of our exams). The problem questions are also blissfully short/simple (i.e. they have one or two issues in each), especially when compared to Torts. The markers are ridiculously finicky though, and mark quite harshly. Really harshly. That’s where they get you.
Regarding the teachers; I’ve experienced Leslie Townsend and Peter … something. Leslie once judged me in WitEx (Witness Examination competition, I’ll write about it later in the term). She also taught one of my good mates. She is meant to be a tad scary, a lot strict, brilliant as anything and an awesome teacher. Peter taught our night class. He was pretty funky, a criminal defense lawyer filled with stories about his cases and with an intense practical and applied knowledge of the law. It was cool because his stories would ground the theoretical law into a concrete scenario, and keep everything nice and interesting.
Onto the assessments; the assignment, the class participation mark and the finals.
The assignment (on murder) actually killed me. It wasn’t that difficult conceptually, it was just that there was so much to say; I didn’t know which points of law I had to talk about, and which I could assume known, how much to talk about each section, how much to talk about the facts of this case, of the cases I discussed — it was my first attempt at a legal problem response, and I went for the scatter-gun approach, I tried to write everything.
In the end, though, I didn’t write enough about the two major issues, instead focusing on slightly relevant (and even some irrelevant) points of law without applying them. I’ll take the risk of sounding like your Method tutor; use the IRAC method, I didn’t, and it cost me.
- Actually identify the issues in the question. This is where the scatter-gun approach failed me, I touched on the two main issues (in my assignment they were provocation and causation) without going into enough depth on either because I spent so much time discussing non-issues.
- Now summarize the legal rule. What does authority tell you? Are there any cases with a congruent/comparable factual make-up? If there is a case that is similar enough or you wish to differentiate this case from authority, don’t be scared of summarizing the facts of that case quickly to draw parallels/distinctions.
- Here’s the fun part; apply the facts of the case to the legal rule described below. To put it simply: either apply the facts to the test outlined in cases or distinguish the facts from said case. This is the most important part of the criminal law and, indeed, most other, assignments. This is where you should focus. This is where you get the majority of your marks.
- Then conclude succinctly and decisively.
Again, whilst you must focus on the issues in the case, you also need to jump through certain hoops; the “golden strand” of criminal law, the evidentiary burden, etc. I went on a bit too much with this; wasted words.
I’ll post my assignment up with the following warning: DO NOT use the assignment as a guide, I did not do at all well in it. I passed, but not by much. Rather, use it with the advice above: 70218Asst1.
One good thing came of my assignment, though: I talked through problem solving method with the subject coördinator and paid a lot more attention in class. A bit of prep goes a long way in Crim for the class mark, enjoy the easy marks! Just try pepper your logical answers to problem questions with the cases/legislation that you were assigned to read, and you’ll get a HD like magic. It’s also good practice for problem solving on the spot for the exam.
Like I said above, the exam wasn’t too hard, simple concepts and a relatively small area of law (we only had to study sexual assault, assault, larceny, joint criminality, defenses and attempt: all of them together less difficult than murder). Have organised exam notes, do a few practice papers and watch your time and you should do fine. Here are my exam notes, with a special shout-out to Nesha for helping with the end part (I ran out of time to make notes before the exam) 70218Notes. Also, don’t be scared to bring in textbooks and the notes they give you; if you have a moment at the end of the exam and you need to look something up, they will come in useful.
UPDATED: Sorry, I totally forgot to mention this: the first/most important textbook you need to buy for this subject is Essential Criminal Law by Penny Crofts (the subject coördinator). It is succinct, well structured and easy to understand. It is great to use in the assignment, in class and in the finals. It is a lifesaver. I used the third edition, but I’m sure a new one will be released shortly to deal with the changes in the law of larceny. You need this book [UTS Library, Amazon].
Enjoy! This subject, although it’s a bit tough, is good fun!