Criminal Law and Procedure (Barr)

Course Number
LAW 1140
Course Description

This course is designed to introduce students to the basic principles of Criminal Law that are set out in the Criminal Code of Canada and defined by case law.

We will begin with an overview of the basic principles-- actus reus, the wrongful act, and  mens rea, the guilty state of mind and their role in defining the essential elements of criminal offences.

We go on to discuss specific criminal offences and how the basic principles apply to them. Those offences include homicide and sexual assault.

In reviewing the offences, with reference to the Criminal Code of Canada, we will look at what may constitute a defence or excuse. The principles of judicial interim release (bail) will also be discussed.

The second term focuses on student-led seminars with topics that include the powers of police while investigating crimes, and sentencing principles that apply to those convicted.

Throughout the course, we will study how the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the common law applies to the criminal justice process.

Indigenous Content and Perspectives:

Two classes, one class in each term for a total of 5 hours of instruction, are dedicated exclusively to fighting systemic anti-indigenous racism and highlighting the impact of colonization and residential schools on the Criminal Justice System. Presentation of the two seminars is by guest speakers from indigenous communities.

Topics include:

-Does anti-Indigenous systemic racism shape our laws?

-Does our criminal justice system operate in a fair and impartial manner, blind to race, socioeconomic status, or other marginalizing factors?

-What is the role of lawyers in combating racism and prejudice in law and society?

-Are the protections to accused persons under the Charter equally accessible to all Canadians?

These two classes challenge students to confront implicit biases and engage meaningfully with this important content.

It is intended that students will be able to apply a lens of anti-racism and critical legal analysis to the Canadian criminal justice system.

Eight further hours of course content allow students to apply this learning through readings and seminar presentations focusing on topics including indigenous youth and the criminal justice system. Also included are Gladue sentencing principles and policing indigenous communities.


1)Students submit three legal blogs of 1500 words each(15% total, 5% each) for posting to;
2)Fall semester: One in-class group Case Presentation (10%);
3)Winter semester: On in-class Group Seminar Presentation (25%).
These Seminar assignments will be posted on UMLearn. Students are expected to answer assigned seminar questions and to lead the class in a seminar on selected topic areas in the Winter term, (approximately 1 hour in total). Students must submit answers to the questions assigned for posting on UMLearn prior to the seminar date.
4)Winter final exam 50%.

Course Materials

Required cases: Cases will be posted on UM Learn or the case name will be provided for students to source on their own.
Criminal Code of Canada, RSC 1985, c C-46 available online at:
Criminal Law in Canada, Simon N. Verdun-Jones, Cases, Questions, and the Code. Available at the U of M Bookstore.

Additional assigned readings will be available online through, Westlaw, or through electronic copies that I will upload onto UM Learn.


John Barr