LAWPUBL 755 - Special Topic: Comparative Criminology

Course details  
Semester 1
Study mode Intensive
Dates 19-25 June 2019
Time 9-5pm
Location Room 340, Building 810
Value 30 points

Lecturer biography

Jon Gould is a professor of public affairs and law at American University in Washington, D.C., USA. An internationally known expert on justice policy, social change, and government reform, he has written on such diverse subjects as erroneous convictions, indigent defence, prosecutorial innovation, police behaviour, hate speech, sexual harassment, and international human rights. Among his four books and more than fifty articles, he has won multiple academic prizes for his work.

During the Obama Administration, Professor Gould served as a Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Department of Justice and was director of the Law and Social Sciences Program at the National Science Foundation. Professor Gould’s research has been supported by more than $3.2 million (USD) in external funding and has been cited in multiple court pleadings and judicial decisions. He is regularly called upon to serve as a consultant to governments and non-governmental organizations alike.

Prior to joining American University, Professor Gould was associate professor and director of the Centre for Justice, Law and Society at George Mason. He has practiced law with the international law firm of Mayer, Brown and Platt; helped to direct programming for the International Human Rights Law Institute; and worked for the Special Rapporteur for the United Nations to investigate violations of international humanitarian law in the former Yugoslavia.

Professor Gould is a former U.S. Supreme Court Fellow. In 2015, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts appointed him as reporter for a committee of the federal courts evaluating the operation of the Criminal Justice Act. Professor Gould received the Administration of Justice Award from the U.S. Supreme Court Fellows Association in 2017.

In 2018, Professor Gould served as one of five international experts at the New Zealand Summit on Safe and Effective Justice. He has studied for and passed the New Zealand bar exam and is admitted as a lawyer in New Zealand.

Course outline

Much has been written about the “global” nature of crime – human rights violations, the drug trade, and human trafficking, among others. But, international crime must also be understood at the national and local level, where legal institutions and systems are created to respond to crime, and where their operation may lead to varying legal norms. This course will provide a comparative analysis of how crime is understood worldwide and will review how varying criminal justice systems respond to both local and international crime. Special attention will be paid to those national systems that mirror that of New Zealand while offering useful examples of approaches and norms that are different.


This course examines the different ways that crime is understood and then addressed in diverse regions and across various levels of government. As such, we will examine definitions of criminality, comparing interpretations at the international, regional, national, and even local level. We will explore varying philosophies and approaches to criminal enforcement and the differing institutions that provide enforcement. Along the way, we will examine specific types of crime. Among the topics to be covered are:

• Definitions of crime and criminality;
• The role of the state vs the community;
• International law and international human rights;
• “Western” approaches vs. other models;
• The influence and role of indigenous norms and practices;
• International, national, and local institutions of law enforcement and prosecution
• Transnational crime
• Specific, contentious issues between and among nations, including: terrorism, digital crime; genocide; and capital punishment


The chief objective is to help students develop an appreciation for the global context of criminal law and justice and an understanding of the various interpretations of and responses to crime. In doing so, we will make comparisons across time and place.

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to describe and discuss different definitions of crime across global, regional, national, and local boundaries and appreciate the reasons for common typographies. They will be able to do the same when considering philosophies and approaches to criminal enforcement and to the institutions responsible for enforcement. They will be able to assess influential criminal justice trends between and across countries, and they will gain an understanding of some of the most controversial issues that divide nations.


80% research essay of approximately 12,500 words and 20% class participation.


Each student is required to submit a research essay of approximately 12500 words including an abstract/synopsis of 200 words. The essay is to be original work, relying on secondary and primary sources, on a topic of criminology of the student’s choosing and the instructor’s approval. The essay must be exclusively the work of the enrolled student. No other person may write the essay or do the research on behalf of the enrolled student. University policy clearly prohibits plagiarism. Students should be familiar with the policy, as they will be held to it. Academic dishonesty of any kind will be dealt with severely. This is a bright line rule with no exceptions.

Students must use proper legal citations and include a bibliography at the end of their typed essay. The essay should be comprised of properly crafted sentences, as note form is unacceptable. The use of sub-headings and a table of contents is encouraged — and footnotes rather than in-text referencing should be used. All essays are to comply with the New Zealand Law Style Guide.

Essays are intended to be analytical, not descriptive. Students should seek to engage with relevant legal/criminological issues, explain and critique any underlying policies, and offer their own proposals for how the issues should be addressed by the legal and/or criminal justice systems involved.

Essays must be submitted to the Faculty of Law by 12 noon on 5 September 2019.
Extensions will not be granted except in extraordinary circumstances and must be requested formally through the Postgraduate Manager.

Class participation

Students are expected to be active participants in class discussion. Students will be assessed individually on the level and quality of their contributions.

Criteria and Marking

Students will be individually assessed on the quality of their contributions with reference to the following criteria:

• the extent to which the student has identified the important and relevant issues;
• the clarity of argument;
• the depth and thoroughness of understanding of the course material;
• the strength and clarity of the arguments presented;
• the overall lucidity of the contribution;
• the extent to which issues are placed in their wider context;
• the extent to which the student has displayed a grasp of the doctrinal and normative issues;
• the analysis and synthesis of material and;
• the ability to draw worthwhile conclusions.

Class participation will assessed over the whole five days of the course. Quality and quantity will be assessed. By definition, if a student is not present for all the classes, it will be impossible to achieve the maximum marks possible even if a student’s contributions are outstanding when s/he does speak.

The best classes are those in which students are free fully to express their views. That will be the case here. There will rarely be strictly “right” or “wrong” answers to the issues we consider. Rather, the question is how well students support their arguments. The atmosphere in class will be friendly and supportive, with students encouraged to test out ideas they are still forming. Students are expected to treat their classmates – and their views – with appropriate respect, but by no means must everyone agree with one another. Indeed, one of the goals of higher education is to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.

Reading materials

Most reading materials will be found in the assigned books. Where possible, readings will come from journals or outlets available on the Internet or in the library.

Teaching method

The course will be taught over five days commencing on a Wednesday and concluding at the end of the following Tuesday. Classes will be interactive, with students encouraged to try out ideas they are considering. It will, however, be necessary for students to do the pre-reading for the course so that they get the most out of the materials under discussion.

Classes will commence at 9am and run until 5pm each day. We will take a significant break around the lunch hour and will also have short breaks as appropriate.

Contact details

Law Student Centre
Level 2, 1-11 Short St

Lecturer contact details