Online course in Politics & the Modern World

From Crime to Punishment: an Introduction to Criminal Justice

What is crime? How does criminal justice work in England and Wales? Find out more by following a case through the system.

From Crime to Punishment: an Introduction to Criminal Justice

  • Duration 4 weeks
  • Weekly study 4 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Extra benefits From $69 Find out more

Why join the course?

What happens when a crime is allegedly committed in England and Wales? Now’s your chance to find out. On this course you’ll follow a suspect through the journey of investigation, prosecution and adjudication. You’ll step inside the courtroom - discovering how criminal justice processes work - and learn about the criminal law and key institutions like the police and the courts.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds‘Crime’ – it seems to be everywhere doesn’t it? Read the news, and you’re reading about crime – who’s committing it, who are the victims, who it affects, how much of it there is, whether there is more than there used to be, what should be done about it, and what we should do with the people who commit it. Listen to politicians and you’ll often hear them talking about crime, about how they understand that people are worried about it and about how they are going to respond to it. So crime is obviously something that society takes seriously.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 secondsSaying that it is criminal to do something is a big deal, because that means it is off limits to people – they can’t do it without risking bad things happening to them. And saying that somebody is a ‘criminal’ is a big deal too. When somebody is a ‘criminal’ we are saying that they have chosen to do something which leaves them open to being punished – by society. So, ‘criminal’ is a label which we have to use carefully. That means that the processes which we use to determine whether something is a crime and whether somebody is a criminal are very important. They deserve scrutiny.

Skip to 1 minute and 20 secondsJoin us as we look at what crime means, and how the criminal justice process in England and Wales deals with it. We will track the journey of an allegation of criminal behaviour through the system. In doing so, we’ll look at some key institutions, processes and people which make up the system and learn about how they work. Crime is everybody’s business; and so how it is dealt with is everybody’s business. And how it is dealt with can be controversial – and we think that’s one of the things which makes it interesting. Join us and see what you think.

What topics will you cover?

  • Week 1: Definitions of crime; measuring the extent of crime
  • Week 2: Investigation and prosecution
  • Week 3: The trial process
  • Week 4: Sentencing

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now
    This course started 16 Sep 2019

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Identify different definitions of ‘crime’
  • Describe, in basic terms, key processes in criminal justice including investigation, prosecution, defence, adjudication and sentencing
  • Develop a reasoned view on the values underpinning criminal justice processes in England and Wales, and on the effectiveness of institutions including police, lawyers, and courts

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at those with a good secondary education and an interest in law and/or criminal justice. The level is undergraduate level 1, so equivalent to the first year of a degree course. You do not need any prior knowledge of the field, but a keen interest in criminal justice is essential.

Who will you learn with?

Rebecca Pickering

I am a barrister, I worked for the Crown Prosecution Service and now am a barrister working in the North of England

Who developed the course?

The University of York combines the pursuit of academic excellence with a culture of inclusion, which encourages everyone – from a variety of backgrounds – to achieve their best.

Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.


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  • Access to this course for 6 weeks


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  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
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Unlimited (New!)
$239 for one year

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  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.