Modern Legal Controversies


Law develops essentially by two means; legislation and case law. The latter is uniquely important in the English legal system, as large areas of law have been developed primarily by judges, with comparatively little legislative input. Even if legislation is passed, much of it contains ambiguities (sometimes deliberately!), and it is the role of the judiciary to establish the meaning of the words used, and the intention of Parliament. In theory, the judiciary merely interprets and applies existing law, but in practice much of English Law is judge-made. Does the law keep pace with social and political change, particularly as judges traditionally come from a narrow stratum of society?

Since 1945 the volume and variety of legislation has increased vastly. Governments must be seen to be ‘doing something’ in response to public concerns, if only in pursuit of electoral advantage. In consequence, legislation may be pushed through in a hurry without sufficient thought. International law, though not necessarily binding at domestic level, is a further element. This course looks at the way the law has developed in various areas of controversy, the context of this development, and the position at present. 

We begin by looking at the ways in which the law develops (Week 1), followed by a topic of controversy each week.

Programme details

Courses starts: 27 Sep 2022

Week 1:  How law develops - is English law judge-made?

Week 2:  Covid and the law – lockdowns and movement restrictions

Week 3:  Covid and the law - compulsory vaccination?

Week 4:  Balancing privacy and freedom of speech

Week 5:  Prosecuting Putin for war crimes?

Week 6:  Seizing Russian assets

Week 7:  Assisted dying

Week 8:  Repealing the Human Rights Act?

Week 9:  'Hate crime'

Week 10:  Violence against women 


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £238.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Miss Ann Lyon

Ann Lyon was educated at the Universities of Newcastle, York and Durham before training as a solicitor. She has been passionate about history for, literally, as long as she can remember, and developed a particular interest in Constitutional History during the 25 years she spent teaching Law. She is also keenly interested in current affairs - the more controversial the issue, the better!

Course aims

To introduce students to the way in which law develops and is shaped by events and the ideas of its time in a range of areas of particular controversy

Course Objectives:

  • To examine the ways in which law is made, enforced and changed
  • To consider the factors influencing the development of the law

Teaching methods

One 2-hour session each week, comprising:

  • One 1-hour lecture
  • One 1-hour seminar

Additional reading

As this course deals with very topical issues, there is a limited amount of material available in the form of books and journals. In consequence, students will be expected to read  the following available online, in addition to newspaper articles:

  • Case reports
  • Parliamentary debates

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to be able to:

  • Analyse the state of the law in specific areas and the  factors underlying it
  • Understand the interplay between politics and the law
  • Understand the mechanisms by which law is enforced, and their limitations.

Assessment methods

1 essay of 1500 words

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)