Subject LAWS50106 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 5 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

February, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start 06-Feb-2016
Teaching Period 10-Feb-2016 to 18-Feb-2016
Assessment Period End 24-Mar-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 23-Nov-2015
Census Date 15-Feb-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 11-Mar-2016

This subject has a quota of 60 students. Please refer to the Melbourne Law JD website for further information about subject quotas.

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 27 hours
Total Time Commitment:

144 hours


Successful completion of all the below subjects:

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Semester 1
Semester 1
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law School welcomes applications from students with disabilities. It is University and Law School policy to take all reasonable steps to enable the participation of students with disabilities, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the School's programs.

The inherent academic requirements for the study in the Melbourne Law School are:

  • The ability to attend classes and actively engage in the analysis of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students must possess behavioural and social attributes that enable them to participate in a complex learning environment. Students are required to take responsibility for their own participation and learning. They also contribute to the learning of other students in collaborative learning environments, demonstrating interpersonal skills and an understanding of the needs of other students. Assessment may include the outcomes of tasks completed in collaboration with other students.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact Student Equity and Disability Support.


Assoc Prof Peter Rush


Phone: +61 3 8344 4475

Subject Overview:

Murder is one of the most prominent crimes in the legal calendar, and it has provided a recurrent reference point for literature, cinema, television, photography, the arts and the humanities more generally. Using examples from legal and public culture, this subject examines in depth the ways in which we make sense of law, crime and killing.

The subject begins with the doctrinal history of murder and allied crimes in order to present the central concepts of the law of homicide and of this subject. It then moves to consider the processes of proof and punishment of murder, before turning to an in-depth study of a variety of specific legal and cultural forms of murder (such as serial killing, mass murder, and family violence).

The overall themes of the subject are three: encounters between legal and cultural responses to the crime of murder; the nature of the difficulties that murder presents for criminal law and public culture; narratives of community, memory and responsibility constructed by responses to murder and its aftermath.

These themes will be explored through an in depth treatment of the complex problems and forms of knowledge from a range of illustrative topics. In any given year, topics will be chosen from amongst the following:

  • The public culture of murder, law and homicide;
  • History and the changing patterns of homicide law;
  • Multiple murder and atrocity, including examples from the law and public culture of 'mass murder', 'serial killing', terrorism, and genocide;
  • Literary representations of unlawful murder;
  • Defences such as provocation, insanity, diminished responsibility;
  • Family violence and conjugal homicide;
  • Punishment, sentencing and homicide;
  • Proof of murder, and determinations of life and death;
  • Murder, euthanasia, and medico-legal problems in criminal law;
  • Homicide and hate crimes; and
  • Corporate killings and workplace deaths (including environmental disasters)
  • Law reform of homicide in comparative perspective.

Examples will be drawn from legal texts and judgments, and from literature, film, and the arts. In this way, the subject compares and integrates the responses of criminal law and public culture in making sense of law, crime and killing.

Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject should have an advanced understanding of the law of murder, as well as be able to critically analyse, engage with, and evaluate to a high standard the forms of representation, bodies of knowledge and practices that compose this specialised area of legal study. This specifically includes an expert understanding, analysis and evaluation of:

  • A variety of representations of murder in criminal law and public culture, together with the complex concepts, knowledge-sets and values used in understanding them;
  • The integration of and disjunctions between various contemporary and historical representations of murder;
  • The limits and difficulties of the concepts and categories of the law of murder and allied offences, with specific reference to their various histories;
  • The institutionalised legal regimes for responding to the crime of murder, with specific reference to pre-trial, trial and punishment processes; as well as their relation to arrangements in other legal fields (eg coroners courts, medico-legal approaches);
  • The distinctive shape of a variety of social genres and legal forms of murder, such as conjugal homicide, hate crime, mass murder;
  • The complex interactions between the responses to murder by criminal law and in public culture; and
  • Interdisciplinary approaches to law, and specifically the criminal law of murder.

In addition, a student who has completed the subject will have obtained:

  • A rich and nuanced appreciation of the complexity and variety of the current scholarship on murder, and its contribution to the current criminal law and public culture;
  • A specialised and integrated knowledge of crime and the law of murder, and its intersections with other legal areas as well as public culture;
  • In-depth knowledge of and research on at least one specific response to the crime of murder;
  • The ability to analyse complex problems of criminal law from a variety of perspectives, as well as the capacity to exhibit a well developed judgment on the worth of those perspectives for scholarly understanding;
  • The capacity to independently conduct further specialised research in criminal law, whether in higher education or in professional practice.

  • Topic Statement (20%): A written statement of proposed topic for the Research Essay and an evaluation of two articles relevant to the topic. Length 1,000 words. It is required that this topic statement clearly identify the topic of the proposed essay; presents the themes of the essay; cogently demonstrate the worth of the chosen approach; as well as present a brief evaluation of two relevant articles with which the essay will engage in an advanced manner. Feedback on the submitted statement will be provided, indicating directions for further developing the topic for the purposes of the research essay, as well as areas for further work and improvement. Due 25 February 2016
  • Research Essay (80%): A 3.500 word research essay, on a topic chosen and independently developed by the student and approved by the subject coordinator.. This research essay is expected to demonstrate a highly advanced understanding of the criminal law and public culture of murder. In particular, it is expected that students will generate complex argumentation, evaluate the forms and values of knowledge relevant to the subject, as well as demonstrate creativity and initiative in the development of their understanding of the issues addressed in the essay. Due 24 March 2016
Prescribed Texts:
  • Specialist printed materials will also be made available from the Melbourne Law School;

  • Supplementary materials may also be provided online via the LMS.
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of the subject, students should have developed and demonstrated their skills in the following areas:

  • Specialist interdisciplinary knowledge of the representation of murder in law and public culture;
  • Investigation, analysis and evaluation of the institutional, representational, and ethical issues that are engaged by murder;
  • Ability to respond to and effectively communicate – in both oral and written forms -cogent and nuanced arguments concerning the variety of ways in which law and culture intersect in particular substantive responses to murder;
  • Conducting in-depth research independently and at a high level, including the ability to generate complex ideas and form well-developed judgments as to the worth of those ideas for thinking about and understanding the law and culture of murder;
  • Carrying out interdisciplinary analysis based on jurisprudence and the humanities of a particular problem or topic that is germane to the legal and cultural understanding of murder;
  • Writing up research which presents an extended argument that is informed by and integrates current scholarship in criminal law and the humanities; and
  • Exercise professional judgment in responding to the questions of law raised by the legal and culture life of murder.


Related Course(s): Juris Doctor

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