LAW162 Criminal Law T3 2020 Hypothetical Assignment

LAW162 Criminal Law T3 2020 Hypothetical Assignment 

Instructions

Word Limit: 2000 words, not including footnotes or reference list.

Weighting: 40% 

Please read this document in its entirety. It contains not only the assignment question, but information relevant to how the assignment will be assessed.

All citation of sources must be compliant with the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (4th edition).

Students cannot submit an assignment unless they have completed AIRLI. Please ensure that you complete AIRLI well before the assignment is due. Problems with completing AIRLI are not an excuse for late submission.

Regarding referencing requirements, please refer to the Student Coursework Academic Misconduct Rule (the Rule), especially [8] and [9], for information regarding plagiarism. 

Please remember that the assignment is not group work. Do not discuss any aspect of your assignment with anyone else – not even the issues or the structure. 

The consequences of a finding of academic misconduct are very serious, especially for law students, because such a finding can adversely impact on entitlement to be admitted into legal practice. The onus is on you, the student, to ensure that you understand and comply with the Rule. If you are unsure it’s much better to ask.  

Please see the Law School Student Essentials for word limit and extension policies.

Submit your assignment via the link in the Assessment module on the unit’s Moodle site. Please be advised that UNE uses Turnitin plagiarism detection software.

Required Reading for the Assignment

  • Anthony Marinac et al, 'Chapter 7: Frameworks for Legal Thinking' in Marinac et al, Learning Law (CUP, 2018) 171 (on 'Reading List', link from Moodle's home tile).
  • 'How to answer legal problem-solving questions - including the IRAC method' and Tasks A, B and C, in 'Writing for Law' in the Law Skills Hub.
  • This document – in entirety.

LAW162 Assignment Question 2020

Jason served in the Australian army and was deployed in Afghanistan. As a result of his experiences over three tours of duty, Jason suffered nightmares, flashbacks, sleeplessness, anxiety, impulsivity and hypervigilance. To relieve the pain of the symptoms, Jason turned to drugs, and became an ice addict. 

On 31 October 2020, Jason was desperate for money. His rent was overdue, and he was starting to suffer ice withdrawal symptoms. Jason was feeling agitated and was grinding his teeth compulsively. His skin, especially his arms, were prickling, and he was sweating profusely. He needed to get some money urgently. Over four hours, Jason developed a plan. He believed that lots of people paid in cash for meat at the local butcher shop. Jason decided to go to that butcher shop and demand all of the money in the cash register. Jason knew that there was a camera in the shop, so to disguise himself, he decided to dress in army camouflage fatigues complete with camouflage face-paint. It was Halloween; Jason considered that no-one would be alarmed or even notice him in that attire on that date. Jason planned to get the money and then lock the butcher in the cool room, along with anyone else who was there, while he made his escape. To that end, Jason put a padlock and chain in a shopping bag, armed himself with a replica samurai sword (an inheritance from his grandfather), and criss-crossed back streets on foot to travel the 750 metres to the butcher shop.

On 31 October 2020, the Coffs Harbour ‘Prime Cuts Meatery’ was staffed by its owner, Colin, and his 19-year-old apprentice, Sally.  At 2.00 pm, Jason entered the shop, raised the sword above counter height, and said, ‘hand over all of the money in the till’. As Colin was complying, Jason snibbed the lock of the entry door of the shop so that customers could not enter. Colin placed $520 in cash on the counter and Jason stuffed it into the shopping bag. Jason then walked around behind the counter and told Colin and Sally to put their mobile phones on the counter and go into the back room of the shop. The cool room was a large meat storage room which was kept at 2 degrees Celsius. Colin and Sally entered the cool room and Jason closed the door. To ensure that Colin and Sally couldn’t escape by releasing the door from the inside, Jason chained and padlocked it shut. Colin and Sally were both wearing light-weight trousers. Sally had a short sleeve shirt. Colin was wearing a shirt, and cardigan. Both were wearing butcher’s aprons.

Jason then left the shop at 2.10 pm via its back door. Jason didn’t know much about the effects of extreme cold on the human body, but he did know that the cool room was very cold and that it would be probably fatal for anyone to be locked in it for an extended period of time. Jason hoped that Colin and Sally wouldn’t be in there for long. Jason hoped that someone would come to the shop looking for Colin or Sally eventually, when they did not arrive home or answer their phones. In case someone did come looking, Jason left the rear shop door unlocked and ajar. In fact, Jason did not know anything about Colin and Sally’s personal circumstances and whether anyone would miss them after close of business.  

By 2.30 pm, Sally was shivering and was clearly scared. Colin felt very protective of Sally. He gave Sally his cardigan to wear and wrapped his butcher’s apron around her shoulders. They cuddled to keep warm and Colin tried to reassure Sally that someone would come and release them soon. In fact, Colin was not sure when or how that would happen. Colin was divorced – no one would miss him if he didn’t return home. Sally lived with her parents – but she was independent, and it was a Friday. It was not unusual for her to go out with friends after work on a Friday, so it would probably be many hours before they missed her. 

By 10.00 pm, Sally’s parents started to worry. They had called Sally a few times but there was no answer. This was out of character. Sally usually answered her phone or called straight back. 

At 11.00 pm Sally’s parents called the police. The police asked a nearby patrol car to quickly check on the butcher’s shop. At 11.45 pm an officer discovered the rear shop door ajar and entered. At midnight, bolt cutters were used to break into the cool room.

An ambulance was summoned, and Sally was rushed to hospital suffering from hypothermia. It was too late for Colin – he was declared dead at the scene.

The autopsy discovered that Colin had quietly died, probably at around 10.00 pm. The cause of death was heart failure brought on most likely by hypothermia, which is known to disturb heart rhythms. Colin had a history of heart disease – he had had three previous heart attacks, and despite warnings from his doctors, he remained 30 kgs overweight and did not regularly exercise.

Jason was arrested the next day. A psychiatrist who examined Jason prepared a report stating that Jason suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder which in turn, often makes sufferers more likely to engage in impulsive and risky behaviour, including substance abuse. The psychiatrist opined that on the 31st October, Jason was suffering from ice withdrawal symptoms, but that he was lucid and not suffering from hallucinations or delusions. 

Can Jason be convicted of punishable homicide under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) in relation to Colin’s death? In your answer, explain why a conviction would or would not be available on each basis for liability. Additionally, discuss Jason’s liability for offending under Part 4 of the Crimes Act.  

In your answer, please ensure that you identify the relevant issues, state the applicable law, apply it to the facts and draw a conclusion. You can assume that the above events occurred in NSW.

Marking Criteria

  • The answer addresses the question
  • Identification of issues
  • Identification of relevant law – quality of research
  • Discussion of the relevant law – demonstrates nuanced understanding of the applicable case law and legislation
  • Application of law to facts – demonstrates nuanced understanding of how the law applies in context
  • Structure – contains a concise introduction and conclusion, content is organised coherently, headings and subheadings used appropriately
  • Presentation – quality of written expression, free of grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors
  • AGLC4 compliance.

Marks will not be awarded separately for each of these criteria. Rather, marks will be awarded for each issue, taking these criteria into account globally. 

FAQs

How should I go about answering the question?  

I strongly recommend that you use the IRAC method. 

  1. Issue: Identify the particular legal issue.
  2. Rule: Discuss the law applicable to that issue, remembering to cite the relevant legal authority (cases and legislation).
  3. Application: Apply the law to the facts.
  4. Conclusion: Make a conclusion about the issue.

Repeat this process for each issue identified.

What are the most common mistakes when answering hypothetical assignments?

The most serious and quite common mistakes are:

  • Insufficient detail in discussion of the law: The slides are not a sufficient foundation for the assignment. Students need to demonstrate nuanced understanding of the applicable legislation and case law. In the case of the latter, that involves reading the cases. Once you’ve identified the key cases you need, please read them. Do not rely on extracts in the text.
  • Not reading the facts and the question with sufficient care. If you misread the facts, you are likely to miss issues altogether or misapply them. You also need to consider the question carefully. If the question asks about offences committed by Jane there are no marks available for discussing offences committed by Mary.
  • Missing issues: there will be marks designated for each issue. If you don’t recognise and deal with an issue you lose a chunk of potential marks.
  • The scattergun approach: another common error involves summarising everything covered in the unit regarding the law relating to the issue. This is an error because it is only the relevant law that needs to be discussed and a scattergun approach conveys to the marker that student doesn’t know which bits of the law are relevant.
  • Failing to apply the law: Following discussion of the law, many students purport to apply it by saying something like, ‘obviously, that applies to this case.’ That is not application of law; it is a conclusion. Once the applicable law has been identified, it is applied by identifying the particular fact or combination of facts that bring a scenario within the scope of the rule and then subjecting those facts to the rule. Ouch, sounds hard! The cases contain countless illustrations of how it is done. That is why reading them is so important.

How will I know what the issues are?

Being able to recognise the existence of legal issue is a core legal skill. If you do the readings, engage with the unit resources, and read the relevant cases, you will be able to recognise the legal issues in the factual scenario. To be blunt, almost anyone with a search engine could tell you about the law on a basic legal point. The important skills taught at law school involve recognising legal issues and applying law to the facts. Both of these skills come from reading cases.   

You should say something about each element of the offences you consider, but you do not need to discuss an element in depth if on the facts, it is entirely straightforward and obvious (in which case, it won’t be ‘an issue’). 

How much research will I have to do?

Most of the cases required for answering this question are discussed (although not necessarily extracted) in the textbook, listed in the required readings or discussed in the lectures. Recommended cases are also an important resource. Research might help you find other relevant cases. 

How should I present my answer?

Your answer should be written in grammatically correct prose. Referencing should be compliant with the AGLC (4th ed). Ensure that spelling is correct in Australian English. 

I recommend that students ensure that word processing software defaults to Australian English and that a spell checker and grammar checker are used before the document is submitted. 

Wasting words

There is nothing to be gained from repeating the facts of the question. 

There is nothing to be gained from repeating the facts of other cases. Doing this will create the impression that, although you realise that there is a factual analogy between the case and the facts in the question, you don’t understand the legal principles from the case and you don’t know how to apply them to the facts.

There is nothing to be gained from quoting entire sections of legislation. Doing this will create the impression that you don’t really understand the legislation because you can’t put its effect concisely into your own words.  

Help! It’s literally impossible to answer the question within the word limit!

Meeting word limits is always tough, but it is always possible to answer the question to HD standard within the word limit. Below are my tips for managing the word count:

  • Are all of your issues really relevant on these facts?
  • Make sure that your structure is coherent and doesn't require repetition.
  • Paraphrase concisely, rather than use direct quotes (paraphrasing is also preferable because the marker can see that you understand - a direct quote does not convey understanding).
  • Use headings and subheadings.
  • Some students write beautifully with rich adjectives and adverbs. Conversely, legal writing is crisp, yet grammatically correct. Consider whether your adjectives and adverbs are necessary.
  • Develop a crisp sentence structure, eg, from a past student dealing with a question about grounds for appeal: 'I have addressed only the issues I think are relevant to get up on appeal, and yet keep exceeding the word limit by hundreds.' Word count: 24, could be redrafted without loss of content as: 'I have addressed only relevant appellate issues, yet the word count is exceeded by hundreds.' Word count: 15.

Conversely, if your final draft is hundreds of words below the word limit, you might have a different kind of problem. The word limit is an indication of the amount of detail expected, given the number of issues. If you have hundreds of words to spare, you might have missed one or more issues, or you might need to consider the issues in more detail.

Where can I get help with the assignment?

Annette Messell, amessell@une.edu.au, UNE’s law librarian, will create a LAW162 library assignment guide which will appear as a link in the assessment module sometime soon. It contains handy links to a number of criminal law specific resources. Annette is happy to give advice on researching points of law.

Nola Holmes nholmes5@une.edu.au is the first-year student advisor and she can assist with general study and assignment skills.

The Law Skills Hub (LSH) has amazing how-to resources including research, referencing, reading, writing and sample assignments. 

And the Unit Coordinator, Michelle, will, as always, answer your questions (where possible) on the forums. 

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