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Risk, Security and the Rule of Law


Entry requirements:

Students who want to take this course need to be admitted to the Criminal Justice master’s program

Brief course description:

In many Western democracies, safety and security are dominating both the public and political discourse, thereby contributing to a growing body of preventive and actuarial criminal justice legislation and policies. Jonathan Simon (2007) speaks of governing through crime, referring to the development that policy and legislation are increasingly linked to the pursuit of safety based on the assumption that measures already in place are insufficient to do so. Whereas legislation should always be the result of a careful process of considering all the values and interests at stake, the current safety and security discourse seems to obstruct this process by propagating the overriding importance of collective safety as a matter of course. This is concerning since security without the rule of law puts democratically ruled states at risk.
This course introduces the students to the rule of law framework for criminal justice issues, therewith focusing on the early stages of the policy cycle: the stage of “agenda-setting” (deciding which social problems should be addressed through new criminal justice policies and laws) and the “legislative stage” (the stage of drafting and deciding upon specific laws and regulations) From a criminological and legal-sociological perspective the course addresses what social and legal dilemma’s political and legal institutions face while governing security, guaranteeing safety and handling (inter)national crises on the one hand , and protecting the rule of law in a democratic yet complex society on the other hand.

Learning objectives:

Upon completing this course, students

  • can illustrate the stratification of the Rule of Law and can relate this to the complex task of the legislature;

  • can identify and analyse the complex dynamics of both the agenda setting stage and the legislative stage with regard to current criminal justice issues;

  • can illustrate and evaluate how criminal justice issues in various countries are impacted by the rule of law as well as by broader societal developments in terms of the development towards risk societies and diverse societies;

  • can characterize the various theoretical reflections on the development of the culture of control and are able to use these theoretical insights to reflect critically upon different developments with regard to legislation in the field of public order and safety and are able to propose new policy arrangements;

  • can identify and describe the public role criminal justice scholars play in both the public and political debate and are able to give substance to this role by explaining criminal justice issues orally and in writing by using scientific findings and results combined with legal reasoning and argumentation.


Kies voor bachelor en master.

Teaching format

The course consists of six interactive two-hour lectures, during which specific aspects of the literature will be further elaborated upon.


  • This course comprises four mandatory two-hour seminars, in addition to the six lectures mentioned above.

  • During the seminars, the leitmotiv will be the public role of the criminologist/criminal justice expert as a key factor and a major player in the public and political debate on public order, crime and safety and consequently also in the complex agenda setting and legislative stage. Using various forms of social media, the students will practice writing scientific op-eds in which they are challenged to apply the acquired theoretical legal-sociological and criminological knowledge to case studies about various concrete security governance dilemmas. In addition to these four written assignments, students will have to present one of their assignments more elaborately.

  • Students will have to present their assignments – both orally and written – in such a way that their findings and argumentation are accessible for a more general audience of both citizens and politicians.


  • A mandatory fieldtrip to the Dutch Parliament or the Council of State

  • Weekly office hours during which the students can talk to the course coordinator about the study material, the blogs, etc. The office hours are not mandatory and students should send an email to the secretarial office ( at least one day (24 hours) prior in order to announce their wish to come to the office hours. Such requests should always include a short description of the reason.

Examination & grading requirements

Assessment methods
1. Students have to write weekly written assignments (four in total) and comments for the course weblog.
2. Students have to present one of their written assignments.
3. Class participation. (actively participating in the discussions, preparing the reading materials, commenting on the course weblog)
4. Students have to pass a written examination

Course grades are determined by:

  • Weekly assignments, presentation and class participation (30%)

  • A final written examination (70%)

  • The weekly meetings and fieldtrip must be attended in order to pass this course.

  • All assignments must be submitted via safe assign (Blackboard)

  • In preparation for the exam, students need to study all the prescribed literature as well as any audio and video material used.

  • All components should be at least 5,5 in order to complete the course successfully.

  • All grades only hold for the present academic year.

  • Depending on the number of students who have to take the resit exam the course coordinator can decide to take the resit exam in the form of an oral exam.

Course language

The course language is English. Students enrolled in the specialization Criminal Policy and Law Enforcement are allowed to answer in Dutch on their written examination. The four written weekly assignments as well as the presentation have to be in English.


Use of Blackboard is required.

Reading list

  • A. Barton & N. Johns. The Policy-making Process in the Criminal Justice System, London: Routledge (latest edition)

  • A series of articles and chapters that will be distributed through Blackboard

Recommended literature

  • MacCormick, N. (Latest Edition) Institutions of Law: An Essay in Legal Theory. Oxford: oxford University Press.



  • Institute: Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminology

  • Opening hours: 09.00 to 12.30

  • Telephone secretariat: 071 – 527 74 62

  • E-mail:


Those who are interested in taking this course on a contract basis (including an examination) can obtain further information on costs, registration, conditions, etc. from the website of the Juridisch PAO.