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Last modified: 28 Jun 2018 10:27

Course Overview

This constitutional law course considers how core political freedoms are protected by human rights law in the UK.  The course takes the form of seminar discussion, based on prescribed reading, of civil liberties such as freedom of expression; freedom of thought; freedom to protest; and the right to vote.  Students are encouraged to reflect critically on how the law guarantees those rights. The broader context of class discussion includes the relationship between the law of the ECHR and domestic law on human rights; and the balance of power between courts, Parliament and government to determine the scope of civil liberties.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 4
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 30 credits (15 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Dr Heather Green

Qualification Prerequisites


What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • LS1521 Public Law and Human Rights (Passed)
  • Legal Studies (Ma Honours) (LX) (Studied)
  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

Course Aims: The course aims to offer students the opportunity to develop their study of human rights law by considering critically the ways in which the law interacts with specific freedoms. ‘Civil liberties’ is the term used before the advent of the human rights law era (in the late twentieth century) to describe core political freedoms. The focus of the course is on political liberties such as freedom of expression, freedom of association (rights to protest), the right to vote, and the problem of balancing personal liberty with national security laws targeting terrorist activity. The aims are to provide students with an enhanced understanding of how the law governs those freedoms, and an opportunity to reflect critically on the balance the law achieves between individual liberties and potentially conflicting state goals, such as preserving public order. Has the advent of the human rights era improved the protection of citizens’ core civil liberties. The course aims to address this theme throughout its study of separate rights. Main Learning Outcomes: Knowledge and Understanding Students will know:
  • How UK law protects human rights under the Human Rights Act model, and by other legal and political means;
  • How the law restricts particular liberties and the grounds for those restrictions;
  • Understand the arguments proposed by scholars about the legitimacy of restrictions on the rights studied;
  • Understand the problems of balancing individual liberties with potentially conflicting state goals;
  • Understand the roles of Parliament, government and the courts in the rights-protection regime;
  • Understand the challenges of legal regulation of political freedoms;
  • Understand the role of civil liberties and human rights law within the broader constitutional law context. Subject Specific Skills and Concepts Students will develop skills concerning:
  • Handling of primary legal materials, especially complex statutory rules;
  • Locating current law from electronic sources;
  • Understanding structure and content of legal comment and argument in relevant scholarship;
  • Understanding the role of legal scholarship in debates about law reform;
  • Offering reasoned oral and written arguments about the law and the principles informing it;
  • Critical analysis and reflection on the content of current law;
  • Understanding of the wider political context in which the law operates. Key Skills (Transferable) The course seeks to contribute to the development of the following skills-
  • Oral and written communication;
  • Working independently;
  • To organise and manage time to achieve tasks;
  • Critical analysis;
  • Logical argument;
  • An ability to synthesise and organise complex materials and arguments;
  • Conduct formal and informal oral presentations;
  • Make appropriate use of technology in research and writing;
  • Reflect on own learning and to seek and make use of feedback. Content: Topics covered in seminars include:
  • Protecting human rights and civil liberties: the Human Rights Act and other constitutional controls;
  • A right to protest: The limits of freedom of assembly;
  • Freedom of political expression;
  • Freedom of association: protest groups, political parties and the law;
  • The right to free elections in UK law: is democracy a human right;
  • Civil liberty and national security: the anti-terror law problem.
  • Further Information & Notes

    The course is available also to students on the MA Legal Studies programme, who may take it as a 30 credit option. This option requires an additional element of assessment (one 1,500 word essay).

    Contact Teaching Time

    Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

    Teaching Breakdown

    More Information about Week Numbers

    Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

    Summative Assessments

    1st Attempt: 1 two-hour exam (70%) and one 3,500 word essay (30%). Resit: Normally, no resit is available.

    Formative Assessment

    There are no assessments for this course.


    Feedback will be provided on the feedback form within three weeks from the date of submission.

    Course Learning Outcomes


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