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Criminal Justice Actors in Comparative Perspective


Admission requirements

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


By means of a combined focus on both criminal justice in the books (how do systems and their institutions function) and criminal justice in action (how do systems actually function) in different settings, this course aims to provide you with a broad and comparative view on the organizations operating within criminal justice systems as well as the administration of criminal justice systems. The course looks particularly into the actors involved in criminal justice and some of the processes with which they deal.
The focus will be on three main institutions present in almost every criminal justice system: the police, the public prosecutor, and the courts, although incidental attention will also be provided to the correctional system. The course will explain how these institutions and corresponding actors operate, and will examine the nature of their interrelationships, both at the national and the supranational level. The discussion of criminal justice actors and processes will be linked to themes that represent challenges for criminal justice today, including globalization, legitimacy, and accountability. During the course, students will reflect on the meaning of justice and the causes and consequences of miscarriages of justice, and how these vary across countries.
Although ‘criminal justice in the books might assume that the institutions and actors of the criminal justice system act as a coherent and unified system with aligned interests, this course will illustrate how institutions often carry out their respective mandates to a large extent autonomously, contributing to a more realistic view of the criminal justice system as a multi-level network of interrelated, yet independent, individual agencies and actors.

Course objectives

Achievement levels
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

  • Critically reflect upon and explain discrepancies between law in the books and law in action with regard to the daily functioning of criminal justice actors and institutions in various jurisdictions;

  • Explain the differences and similarities in relation to challenges facing criminal justice in various jurisdictions;

  • Assess and compare the way in which the daily functioning of individual actors in various countries, as well as the functioning of the criminal justice apparatus as a whole, relates to the concepts of legitimacy, accountability and effectiveness;

  • Demonstrate their understanding of the complex legal, political, social and organizational dynamics in which criminal justice actors are operating in different countries.


Choose bachelor or master.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of lectures: 10

  • The lectures are divided between the criminal justice actors and the criminal justice processes.


  • Number of seminars: 4

  • During the seminars, you will zoom in on some of the criminal justice actors and processes.

Other methods of instruction

  • Description: 2 field trips

  • You will go on a field trip to EUROJUST and/or EUROPOL and/or another relevant institution. You will be expected to prepare questions and points for discussion. The visits are a formal part of the curriculum of the course and the information provided during the day can be used for the examination.

Other methods of instruction

  • Description: Weekly office hours.

  • Students who wish to ask a question during office hours should send an email to the secretarial office ( at least one day (24 hours) in advance with a short description of the reason.

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Final written examination with essay questions (70%)

  • Essay written during the course (30%)

  • All requirements mentioned above have to be met and the two components of the final grade should be at least a 5.5 in order to complete the course successfully. All grades only hold for the present academic year.

  • There will be a resit for both the final written examination and for the essay.

  • Depending on the number of participants, the course coordinator can decide that the retake of the final written examination mentioned above will be an oral retake. In that case, you will be notified of this in time.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials
1. F.J. Pakes (most recent edition) Comparative Criminal Justice. Devon: Willan Publishing
2.Several chapters of L. Zedner (most recent edition) Criminal Justice (Clarendon Law Series). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
3. Fuller, L. (1949). The Case of the Speluncean Explorers. Harvard Law Review, 62(4). Available at
4. Other readings to be discussed during the working groups, which will be distributed through Blackboard.

Recommended course materials

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


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: mw. Dr. E.F.J.C. van Ginneken

  • Availability: Monday till Friday, through the secretariat

  • Telephone: 071 – 527 74 62

  • E-mail:


  • Institute: Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminology

  • Opening hours: 09.00 to 12.30

  • Telephone secretariat: 071 – 527 74 62

  • E-mail: