Skip to main content

Unit information: Colonialism, Sexual Offences and Law in 2021/22

Unit name Colonialism, Sexual Offences and Law
Unit code SPOL20062
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Natasha Carver
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

The number of prosecutions for sexual offences has increased considerably over the last decade in England and Wales. At the same time, those charged with sexual offences are significantly more likely to plead ‘not guilty’ than for any other crime. This has resulted in a high proportion of jury trials comprising of sexual offences. While Black and Asian men have been disproportionately subject to arrest for sexual offences compared to White men, they are also less likely to be found guilty, but those convicted are more likely to be issued with custodial sentences.

This unit looks at the regulation of sexual behaviour and sexual relations. We explore law and policy pertaining to sexuality from colonialism to the present day. We consider the long-lasting legacies of colonial ideologies and power dynamics and the ways in which they continue to operate in present-day prosecutions of sexual offences. The unit introduces students to post-colonial theory and narrative criminology. Students will also deepen and develop their understandings of the workings of the criminal justice system, including in relation to rules of evidence and vulnerable witnesses.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  1. Identify and explain the historical and cultural contingency of sexual crime narratives.
  2. Describe the relationship between the regulation of sexuality and colonialism.
  3. Locate, navigate, read and interpret legal documents including acts and case law.
  4. Critically reflect on the roles assigned to witnesses, defendants, juries, public and legal personnel in the courtroom and the ways in which legal structural hierarchies reflect, maintain and reproduce social, sexual and racial hierarchies.
  5. Apply techniques of narrative criminology.

Teaching Information

This unit will draw on a blended learning approach. Students will engage with asynchronous taught content (including, for example, narrated slides and other teaching and research materials) and will be tasked to complete activities in preparation for synchronous sessions to present and discuss ideas and clarify learning.

Assessment Information

Summative Part 1: 30% - A narrative analysis. 1000 words. Students will choose one text from a limited selection of legal narratives (e.g. a judgement, sentencing remarks, probation report) which they will analyse.

Assesses ILOs: 3,4,5

Summative Part 2: 70% - Essay. 2000 words

Assesses ILOs: 1,2,4


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. SPOL20062).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.