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Criminal Justice Actors in Comparative Perspective


Entry requirements

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

Brief course description

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.
An overview will be provided of the theoretical origins and development of criminal justice systems in various jurisdictions, including the development of policing, prosecution, , corrections and diversion. 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 influence of globalization, the internationalization of crime and the process of ‘shifting up’ of responsibilities to the European level are central themes in this course.
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.
You will have to write an essay during the course on an issue covering the various actors involved in the criminal justice process. The aim is to produce an original and insightful essay which takes into account how the different actors in the criminal justice chain function in relation to a particular transnational crime and/or phenomenon.

Learning objectives

Upon completing this course, students will be able to:

  • 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;

  • Appoint the different theoretical underpinnings of the criminal justice apparatus in various jurisdictions and relate this to variations in the organization of the criminal justice apparatus in various countries;

  • 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 a country of choice by writing and presenting a coherent research paper based on literature research and the analysis of secondary data in order to answer a well formulated research question.


Kies voor bachelor en master.


8 Lectures

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

4 Seminars

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

  • All participants are required to attend and actively participate during lectures and

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.

Examination & grading requirements

  • If you miss 1 or 2 sessions, an extra assignment follows. Failure to participate in 3 or more sessions implies you cannot complete the course successfully.

  • Final written open book examination with essay questions. You will be provided with 6 or 7 essay questions, of which you have to answer 3, in addition to the essay that you have been writing during the course.

  • Attending field trips

Course grades are determined by

  • Final written examination with essay questions (75%)

  • Essay written during the course (25%)

  • All requirements mentioned above (including attendance) 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.


Bij dit vak wordt gebruik gemaakt van Blackboard.

Reading list

Mandatory literature
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 literature

  • Bachman, R. and Schutt, R.K. (newest edition) Fundamentals of Research in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Los Angeles: Sage, or equivalent

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


Students can enroll for this course via uSis


  • Course co-ordinator: prof. dr. J.P. van der Leun

  • 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:

Contract teaching

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”: