Professor FrédéricMégret

LAWG 102D1 002

Fall 2017-Winter 2018

Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:35-3:55

New Chancellor Day Hall, CDH 101

Contact information

Office: New Chancellor Day Hall, Room 607

Office hours: Friday 4:00 - 5:00


(Email is my preferred method of communication).

Group Assistant

Ana Lucia Lobos


"Office" Hours: Monday 1:30 - 2:30 in the Atrium

Materials and preparation

All readings will be available through this website. Please note that if you are not on campus you may need to be behind a VPN to access some of the library resources.

Instructions on how to set up and use the VPN are available here.

Each session includes a short introduction that I have written in an effort to guide you. There are "preparation readings" that are compulsory and extra bibliographical resources for those of you who want to pursue things further. Whilst we will try to cover all compulsory preparation readings, it may be that from time to time we will not be able to discuss a source. I will still consider that you are familiar with it, although I will take into account, when setting the exam, that this is not something we discussed extensively. Please note that the course's emphasis is on primary and non-textbook sources. This means that the overall content of any given session will have to be teased out by you as you are doing the readings and then in every class. Approach each class with an open mind to find what you can get out of it. Please also note that many readings are simply there to trigger a conversation. The fact that I post a reading does not mean that I endorse or agree or disagree with the views expressed therein, merely that I think that the reading is interesting for the discussion that I propose to have. Finally, the course is based on the "legal pluralist" assumption that the law is "everywhere" as it were, and not merely in the Criminal Code or the case law. Whilst there will be plenty of those, you will be asked to read memos, reports, news items, blogs or websites. Of course, not all of these will be formal sources of the law, but they will still be interesting examples of "law in action."

Overall the course is focused on big ideas rather than technical detail. If you read a judgment, don't think you have to remember all of it. Read the judgment with the session topic in mind. What does it bring to the discussion? Do I agree with it? How does it relate to other readings?
The bibliographical resources are included for those of you who want to do further reading and merely for information, as well as for reference for the "student experts."

Note: if your questions are not addressed in what follows, you may also want to refer to the FAQs section.


This course will introduce the basis, nature and functioning of criminal justice within and across legal orders, with a focus on Canadian criminal justice. It will examine the main determinants of crime and explore the rationales for criminalizing certain conduct, presenting criminalization as one among a number of possible models for responding to different types of conflicts, behaviours and phenomena.  Further, the course will introduce key substantive, procedural, evidentiary and sentencing aspects of the criminal law, with attention to formal but also informal sources of law, including the exercise of discretionary powers by police, prosecutors, and judges, as well as the role of the different participants in the criminal justice process. Finally, the course will engage closely with the social impact of criminal justice, with particular attention to race, class, gender, indigeneity, ethnicity and power. 


By the end of the course, students are expected to be able to meet the following objectives, across different legal systems and disciplines:


a.       Understand different conceptions and constructions of crime.

b.       Situate developments in criminal law and justice in their historical, political and social context and appreciate the way criminal laws are both shaped by its context and impacts upon social context (especially in light of aboriginal, poverty, gender and disability issues).

c.       Explain and critically evaluate principles underlying the criminal process, criminal liability, proof of criminal wrongs, and responses to criminal wrongs.

d.       Explain and critically evaluate the impact of fundamental rights and international law on criminal justice.

e.       Recognize that actions, decisions, and frameworks in criminal justice reflect the traditions from which they emerge; be aware of these traditions and their importance in the formulation of principles of criminal justice.

f.         Have an understanding of the limitations of criminal justice systems, including in terms of systemic discrimination.


The class is based on a heavy student participation and exercises. It is, in other words, based on a "flipped" pedagogy where much of the basic content is supposed to have been absorbed before the class, and the class is merely there to test knowledge, confidence using sources, and to further develop complex questions and insights. Because this is not a small seminar, live polling and other technologies will be used. The goal is not to "teach the law" but to teach you to "be lawyers." See the FAQs for more details. The emphasis will be on skill acquisition rather than just memory. Students are expected to:

1.      Have read, viewed or listened to the materials prior to class;

2.      Be able to identify and state the issues presented by the assigned materials with a high level of proficiency; and

3.      Participate in class discussion of the assigned materials and any exercises relating to the assigned materials. 

Problems focusing in class? Distracted by social media and email? Feel like this is distracting others around you? Please consider using freedom, leechblok, stayfocusd, selfcontrol, etc.


My evaluation philosophy is that you should be tested for skills and reasoning rather than knowledge. In your professional careers, knowledge will always be at your fingertips, but the ability to think strategically and critically is much in demand. It will involve navigating complex knowledge rather than coming up with a single "good answer." In order to be able to do this, you need to develop superior analytical and synthetic skills. You must become an active reader, quick to spot the issues, the decisive points, and the  ambiguities. The traditional focus on the final exam sets up an opposition between "learning" and "being tested" that can be artificial. Moreover, it rewards a particular set of skills that are not all that is necessary to being a successful lawyer. As a result, I try to use a varied and partly continuous set of tools so that your overall mark reflects a continuous record of effort and improvement rather than a single sitting in an exam.


1. Class preparation and in-class exercises (25%)

Class exercises and quizzes throughout the year will test your degree of preparation and intellectual investment in the course. The goal of this evaluation is to assess the degree to which you come prepared for class, your understanding of the sources, and your ability to integrate previous classes in your evolving understanding of  criminal justice. Some exercises will be group based, and you will be expected to show your ability to collaborate as evaluated collectively. 

Some exercises will be based on live polling (which will not represent more than 10% of the overall grade). For more information on how live polling works, see here.

  • Please register here
  • When prompted in class, please turn to:

More details will be given at the start of the semester.

2. "Class expert" (25%).

You must volunteer once in each semester to be a class expert . There will be between 3 and 4 class experts in each class starting from session 2. Class experts will often be the first ones to whom I address a question. You must come prepared and will be asked to do one extra reading from the bibliography list in addition to the basic preparation. This assessment will test your ability to think on your feet and communicate in public, key skills for any aspiring lawyer. It will also test your understanding of a particular session. Clarity of thought, straightforwardness of answers and the ability to connect to other sessions, when appropriate, will be taken into account. You may register on this page starting on Thursday 14th at 8 AM.

Exams (50%)

1. Take home exam (25%) at the end of the first semester. This take-home exam will be based in part on your bail court visit. For more information on the bail court visit, please check here. You will  have 3 hours to address it.

3. Final exam (25%) at the end of the year. Last year's exam is available here. Obviously the questions will be different but you can expect a broadly similar format. The assessment will be based on the following (i) quality of reasoning rather than "correctness" of answers - the questions will typically have several possible answers to them, and what matters is how well you address them, (ii) quality of legal drafting (is the structure and outcome clear, do you envisage alternative reasoning, do you adequately use sources).

Criminal justice exam June 2017


Criminal Justice Winter Schedule.docx

On grading

Grading is often a cause of significant stress, especially in first year. You should be aware of the McGill grade scale, which is as follows:

A - Real Excellence

A- - Excellence

B+ - Very Good

B - Good

B- - Reasonably good

C+ - Competence plus

C - Competence

D - Failure

F - Failure 

In addition, it is McGill policy that Grades in first year sections should fall within the range of 2.7 to 3.0 (up to 3.14 maximum for final grades) with a deviation of no more than .2 among First Year Sections in a course.

The grade/grade points average is as follows:

A 4.0

A- 3.7

B+ 3.3

B 3.0

B- 2.7

C+ 2.3

C 2.0

D 1.0

F 0

In other words, the average for this course must be a B- or barely a B, namely between "reasonably good" and "good". This may differ from the grading scale you are used to. Please bear this in mind. When you get a B it means that you did well, that you passed the threshold.

Students with Disabilities: 

If you have any type of disability, there are support systems, resources and accommodation available to you. If you wish to access any of these support systems, resources, or accommodations, please consult the Associate Dean (Academic), Vrinda Narain, and/or consult the McGill Office for Students with Disabilities Website, at  Note that deadlines to assure some accommodations may be quite early.  Please also feel free to contact me to discuss any concerns or questions, or if you require clarification. 

If you have any concerns that you feel you want to take up with me, please do not hesitate and I will do anything in my power to make the class accessible. 

Examination Arrangements: 

Students may apply for special examination arrangements for an examination that falls during religious holy days. Students must contact Nancy Czemmel in the SAO to make arrangements for examinations as soon as possible.  See for more details.  For information on other exam conflicts, see

McGill Policy Statements

McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore, all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see for more information).

In accord with McGill University’s Charter of Students’ Rights, students in this course have the right to submit in English or in French any written work that is to be graded.

Since polling records may be used to compute a portion of course grades, responding as someone other than yourself is considered an academic offense. During class, possession of more than one response device or using the credentials of another student will be interpreted as intent to commit an academic offense. Please refer to McGill’s policy on Academic Integrity and Code of Conduct.

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