Criminology

Exam Board:  WJEC/Eduqas

Criminology is offered as a two year course of study at Sixth Form.

Criminology was introduced as a Sixth Form Option in 2020.  The WJEC Level 3 Applied Diploma in Criminology (herein referred to as Criminology) is a qualification that combines elements of Sociology, Law, Psychology and Politics. It also strong links with other subjects, notably Business Studies, Economics and the Humanities (History, Geography).

Although the Criminology course shares similar subject content to the disciplines noted above, it looks at this content through the prism of the Criminal Justice System. As such, there is overlap with other A Level subjects taught at MGSG, but the focus is slightly different. In taking this course, you will gain an understanding of the Criminal Justice System, viz., the competing theories for Crime and Deviance, the role of the police, social workers/probation officers, the penal system and the societal response/reaction to crime.

In studying the WJEC Criminology course, you will gain subject knowledge and skills that are relevant to many jobs and roles within the Criminal Justice sector, social and probation work, sociology and psychology. As many of our students go on to read these subjects and university and/or wish to pursue careers in these fields, the WJEC Criminology course will prove useful to them with their career and UCAS choices.

The WJEC Criminology qualification is an applied course, which is also useful in developing other skills. Students are required to use case studies and to consider how the use and application of their learning impacts on others – notably, individuals, employers, society and the environment. In pursuing the WJEC Criminology course, your daughter/son would develop the following transferrable skills:

  • Skills required for independent learning and development.
  • A range of generic and transferable skills.
  • The ability to solve problems.
  • The skills of project based research, development and presentation.
  • The fundamental ability to work alongside other professionals, in a professional environment.
  • The ability to apply learning in vocational contexts.

Undoubtedly, these are skills that would prove useful to students, both at MGSG and in the wider world. The vocational/applied context of the WJEC Criminology qualification would also be useful for those looking for apprenticeships and alternatives to university post-18. In addition, the focus on independent learning and research, development and presentation would also help those students taking the EPQ in Year 12/13 and A Levels that have considerable coursework elements (Media, History and English.

Students considering taking Criminology as an option can take this subject in combination with any subject offered for Sixth Form Study. For obvious reasons, Criminology aligns especially well with Sociology, Psychology, Law and Politics. Students taking Criminology with any of these subjects will find this a particularly suitable combination to study.

Course Content in Criminology

The WJEC Criminology Diploma is comprised of 4 units (unlike the 3 papers seen with A Levels). All units are compulsory and must be successfully passed to gain the WJEC Criminology Diploma.

Unit 1: Changing Awareness of Crime (Coursework Assessed)

This unit looks at a range of different types of crime and examines the reasons why some types of crime are often under-reported. For example, victims of crimes such as domestic violence are often reluctant to come forward, while witnesses may decide to turn a ‘blind eye’ to crimes that they view as harmless, such as smoking cannabis or illegally downloading media.

You consider the effect of crime not being reported. For example, underreported crimes may cease to be a priority for the police, even if the offences involved are serious.

We also examine the role of the media in changing awareness of crime. The media produces an endless stream of news about real-life crime as well as fictional portrayals in crime dramas. But the media have been accused of distorting and sensationalising crime. In this Unit, you will look at how accurate the media’s portrayal actually is and how it can make the problem worse, for example by triggering ‘moral panics’ about crime.

An alternative source of information about crime are the statistics gather by the police, government researchers and criminologists. We examine the strengths and limitations of these methods of measuring the amount and type of crime in society.

Finally, we look at what campaigners have done to raise awareness of under-reported crimes and how some have succeeded in changing the law. This Unit give you the opportunity to select an under-reported crime and plan a campaign to change people’s awareness of it, as well as to design some appropriate materials that your campaign could use to bring about that change of awareness. By the end of the Unit, you will have used your theoretical knowledge of the crime reporting process to produce an effective campaign.

Unit 2: Criminological Theories (Externally Examined)

In this Unit, you will consider what we mean by ‘crime’ and how we distinguish it from ‘deviance’. You will begin this Unit by examining these terms, before looking at how crime is ‘socially constructed’. Using examples of changes in the law, we examine how and why what counts as ‘crime’ varies between times, places and cultures. This links to what you learnt in Unit 1 about how the media and campaigns help to construct our perception of criminality and underreported crimes.

There have been many attempts to understand why people commit crime. For example, are some people ‘born criminals’ – or is their behaviour the result of their upbringing and social environment? We describe a range of different criminological theories that aim to explain criminality and we use case studies to examine how these theories can be applied to different criminals and types of crime.

We consider how effective these theories are in understanding the causes of criminality. We consider whether they explain all the many kinds of crime, or whether they are better at explaining one type rather than another. We evaluate the usefulness of the different theories by examining the strengths and limitations of each one.

We also look at the solutions offered to the problems of crime and the different policies aimed at preventing it. We examine a range of these policies and how they have been influenced by criminological theories. We then look at how social changes have influenced policies in relation to issues like racism and LGBTQI+ rights.

Unit 3: Crime Scene to Courtroom (Coursework Assessed)

In this Unit, you will look at the criminal justice system. You will begin with the initial investigation that takes place once a crime is discovered and then move through the different stages of arrest, prosecution and convention of the offender, and finally to any appeal.

We begin by looking at the roles of the different personnel involved once a crime is detected, including police officers, crime scene investigators and forensics specialists. We examined the different techniques investigators use to gather evidence, including forensic laboratory analysis, surveillance, interviewing and offender profiling. Once the evidence against a suspect has been collected, the Crown Prosecution Service has to decide whether to prosecute them. We consider how they reach that decision.

We also look at the rights of suspects who are arrested, charged and tried, and the safeguards that aim to ensure they receive a fair trial. These safeguards include important rules about what kind of evidence is permitted in court. For example, hearsay evidence and confessions obtained by threating the suspect are ruled out.

Criminal trials may be held in a magistrates’ court or – for more serious offences – before a jury in the Crown Court. We examine the role that ordinary citizens play as magistrates and jurors, including the factors that may influence a jury’s verdict. For example, are jurors influenced by what they see on social media about the case they are trying?

Miscarriages of justice occur when an innocent person is convicted of a crime or when the trial itself was so unfair that we cannot be sure whether the defendant is guilty. In such cases, the court’s verdict is unsafe and it may be overturned on appeal. When you have completed this Unit, you will be in a position to review criminal cases, evaluate the evidence and the trial process, and decide for yourself whether the verdict reached by a court is safe a just. As part of your Controlled Assessment, you will write a report on an infamous case involving a miscarriage of justice – you will examine what happened in the crime scene to courtroom process and why, eventually, the verdict of the court was overturned.

Unit 4: Crime and Punishment (Externally Examined)

This Unit is about social control – that is, about how society seeks to control our behaviour and ensure that we obey the law. It focuses on the criminal justice system and its efforts to achieve social control.

We begin by looking at how the law is made by Parliament and by the decision of judges. We then go on to examine how the criminal justice system is organised to uphold the law and punish those who break it. This involves looking at how agencies such as the police, Crown Prosecution Service, the courts, prisons and probation service fit together.

We also look at the different values on which a criminal justice system can be based. For example, it can emphasis the need to protect the rights of the accused against the power of the state, such as the principle that you are innocent until proven guilty. Or it can focus on protecting the public by suppressing crime, even at the cost of some innocent people being wrongly convicted.

Next, we look at punishment and what it is for. For example, should the aim of imprisonment just be to protect the public by taking offenders off the streets? Or should it be about rehabilitating criminals so that they ‘go straight’ and lead a crime-free life? As we shall see, the justice system uses punishments to try to achieve several different aims.

However, do the prisons, police and other agencies of the criminal justice system actually succeed in achieving their aims? For example, does prison succeed in preventing people from reoffending? When you have completed this Unit, you will be in a position to evaluate how effective the different agencies are in achieving social control and ensuring that society’s members obey the law.