Hsc Crime Writing Essay

Guide To The Legal Studies Crime Essay

In the final Legal Studies exam, the most important part of the Crime section is undoubtedly the “15 marker” essay.

Post written by Wayne Kwok (13th in the state Legal Studies 2015). See all articles first and personally get in touch with our state rankers here

The Crime Multiple Choice questions are reasonably straightforward, so you want to make sure most of your preparation goes into ensuring you can form an effective essay response.

Whilst it’s true that the crime essay is worth relatively less compared to the other essays (which are worth 25 marks), it’s still important to be able to maximise your marks in this section. The best way to do this is to base your study specifically around what can be tested and what you might write.

Preparing for the essay

There’s no point memorising huge swathes of content in great detail since the question will only end up asking for a specific section of the syllabus.

Indeed, since 2011, the crime essay question has always specifically referred to one aspect of the syllabus. What this means is that for your preparation, the most effective thing to do is to plan out exactly what you’ll write for each of the major “headings” of the syllabus, as well as for the T&Cs.

If you sit down and maybe spend just a bit of time planning out what you would write if a particular dot-point was asked for in the essay, you’ll have basically covered all your bases and ensured you can effectively answer any question. You should note down perhaps three specific “issues” per heading which you would discuss, and each of those issues would have its own cases, issues, legislation or media reports which you would refer to.

For example, for the heading “sentencing and punishment”, my notes read:

Continued Sex Offender Detention: Crimes (Serious Sex Offenders) Act 2006 (NSW) incl. Kenneth Tillman, Attorney General v Quinn (2007), UNHCR response.
Mandatory sentencing: incl. Crimes Amendment (Assault and Intoxication) Act 2014 (NSW) and Crimes Amendment (Police Officer Murder) Act 2011 (NSW), with BOCSAR statistics
Alternative sentencing: Circle Sentencing and Restorative Justice effectiveness with BOCSAR statistics

You can do this through a mind map, or a table, or in a dot-point summary form like above.

Whatever way you do it, the most important thing is that you are able to memorise your prepared cases and material and be able easily recall them in the exam.

Also, remember when doing this to make sure you include certain issues or cases which your teacher has referred to before — since the syllabus is so extensive, teachers love it if you specifically refer to things which they are looking for.

Note that the questions in the HSC tend to combine one of the T&Cs (themes and challenges) with a specific dot-point, for example the 2013 question which combined the T&C of “discretion” with the dot-point on sentencing and punishment.

In these situations, it’s pretty easy to “adapt” your prepared cases for the sentencing and punishment dot-point to incorporate the idea of discretion, not unlike the way you might adapt a prepared essay in English.

And then, practice, practice, practice! Get used to writing your responses under timed conditions to certain questions (there are plenty on the internet to find, or you can even just write your own), and always try and get your practice essays reviewed by your teacher as well — after all, they’ll be marking your trials and assessments!

Of course this isn’t the only way to go about it — it’s perfectly possible to do well in the essay without being so specific like this. But for me personally, I found that this method was the most comprehensive way to make sure I went into the exam as confident as possible, and with this method of preparation, I got full marks for every crime essay I did throughout year 12, including in the HSC.

Writing the essay

As with all of legal studies, your marks will come not from simply describing WHAT a particular legal measure is, but rather, from providing some kind of evaluation of whether the measure has or hasn’t been effective.

Unlike other subjects, you don’t necessarily need to come to a concrete conclusion in this regard — it’s perfectly okay to come to an ambivalent conclusion after a discussion where you weigh up both the benefits and disadvantages of a particular legal measure.

Also, never spend too long describing what a particular legal issue is — for example, if you’re writing about bail, there’s no need to go very in-depth into what bail involves or what the conditions are to receive it etc.

It’s more important to go straight onto exploring and discussing the effectiveness of the measure. Moreover, it’s always good to use statistics from the BOCSAR in order to support the points you’re making about effectiveness, and there are heaps of BOCSAR reports to choose from.

You can also use news/media articles to highlight community reactions or responses to a particular legal measure, which can again be a measure of effectiveness.

Additionally, you should always try and choose legal issues which are in some way contentious or controversial, as this allows you to write more about them and also provide some kind of analytical discussion. For example, rather than simply writing about police powers of arrest, you could specifically focus on the issue of police powers in relation to terror suspects or sex offenders, which allows you to bring in more specific cases and statistics which can make you stand out from everyone else.

Lengthwise, you should treat the essay as though it were a full 25-mark essay and accordingly you should be aiming to write 3 pages minimum. Of course, writing lots won’t guarantee you high marks, but equally there’s definitely no downside to writing more if you still have the time in the exam.

Post written by Wayne Kwok (13th in the state Legal Studies 2015)

To get in touch with our talented state rankers and access all articles first, just join our community by clicking the picture below:

In HSC Legal Studies, scaffolding aka “writing an essay skeleton” is a quick way to draft the most important points of an HSC Legal Studies essays into an easy to remember structure that you can whip up in under 30 mins.

Why would you do this?

Because it means you can write, technically, several essay scaffolds in the time you would usually take to write one full essay! Which means you are revising much more content.

Of course, when you do this, you miss out on important essay-writing honing skills. But the point of a scaffold is in the content-revision. It’s the perfect way to practice content for Legal Studies!

To explain how you can use scaffolds to write HSC Legal Studies essays, I’ll be using the Core: Crime, as everyone will study this. And you can apply this any way to your own electives.

There are 5 steps, and we will work through this question together:

Assess the effectiveness of the criminal justice system when dealing with young offenders.

Are Your Notes Up to Scratch?

If you need reliable notes or simply want to check your notes are right, take a look at HSC-Notes.com.

Their Legal notes are crafted by the 99+ ATAR Club and provide concise answers to the HSC Syllabus dot points with what you need to know for your exams. Diagrams, mind maps, tables, dot points, paragraphs, sources are included to aid your learning.

With these notes you can spend less time rewriting your textbook and worrying about whether your notes answer the syllabus dot points correctly and spend more time learning and practicing your skills knowing your notes are accurate and concise.

Head on over to HSC-Notes to get your HSC subject notes now

1. Analyse question

“What are the buzzwords in the question?”

The first thing we need to do is highlight the buzzwords in the question (which you’ve written at the top of your scaffold). So below, I have bolded these.

Assess the effectiveness of the criminal justice system when dealing with young offenders.

These are the key points you will be assessed in. You need to be:

  • Assessing: evaluating how good or bad something is
  • The effectiveness: how efficient
  • The criminal justice system is: the law (government legislation, courts, police, etc.)
  • When dealing with young offenders: the legal processes a young offender will come into contact with

Therefore, your essay will need to be an evaluation of the way the law handles young offender, and will need to have a stance on whether or not this is efficient, or a detrimental/slow/backwards journey.

Looking to the syllabus, we know this information is under “5. Young Offenders”. Which are the following points:

  1. Age of criminal responsibility
  2. The rights of children when questioned or arrested
  3. Children’s Court
  4. Penalties for children
  5. Alternatives to court

 

2. Thesis

“What is your personal response to the question?”

So given that we will be talking about those 5 syllabus points from above, which you should by now have a firm grasp of, you should be able to answer: How would you describe the way the law deals with young offenders?

There is not one correct answer. You will be marked on how you argue your point of view.

For the sake of this example, we will use one possible thesis:

The criminal justice system does provide some effective and relevant concessions for young offenders. However, due to its focus on incarceration and punishment rather than on preventative measures, the criminal justice system is only somewhat effective in dealing with young offenders.

This should be written at your top of your scaffold, under Thesis.

3. Argument

“How will you structure the body of your essay so that you can prove your thesis?”

This means organising your ideas into themes. Usually, in Crime, you should be tackling 3-5 of these “themes”.

For example, this question could be organised as such:

  1. Age of criminal responsibility
  2. Questioning and Arrest
  3. Bail
  4. Court proceedings

These are 4 major ways in which the criminal justice system deals with young offenders. There are many variations, but this one works ‘linearly’, as it is the process a juvenile offender would face.

Each of these act as the theme of a paragraph (or two!) under which you will place information and your explanations.

4. Insert CML

“What Cases, Media, and Legislation (C.M.L) do I have that support my argument?”

It is time to insert all the content and information you have been learning into your essay scaffold. This is when you should read through all the information you have on the syllabus points we identified previously, in order to back up your point of view.

You should briefly dot-point in the citations for that CML you have, and the quote or piece of information.

This is a scaffold, so it does not need to be a full citation. For example, for the first paragraph/theme we found, it would be as follows:

1. Age of criminal responsibility

  • Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 (NSW)
  • Corey Davis Case
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Senior NSW Children’s Court Magistrate Stephen Scarlett: “children today are better educated and more sophisticated than their counterparts in rural Britain in 1769” ((Jacobsen, SMH April 2012)
  • “Children who commit serious crimes go unpunished” (Juvenile Justice – NSW Parliamentary Research Service)

 

These will serve as the basis for each paragraph, or idea that you write about. Remember, this is a scaffold, so it’s about organising content and writing a skeleton for your essay.

 

5. Explain CML

“How do I explain why these Cases, Media and Legislation are relevant to my argument?”

Under each dot point, I like to include a short sentence which explains why you’ve included that piece of CML. This isn’t usually required in essay skeletons and many people leave it out, but for me, it’s the most important part.

Why?

Because just throwing in CML won’t give you marks. It’s all about your using your own mind to create an argument. HSC markers look for this. So these little sentences are the ‘meat’ of your scaffold!

Sure, you could leave them out. But that for me is an incomplete scaffold.

So this is what I like to end up with:

1. Age of criminal responsibility

  • Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 (NSW)
    • Children under the age of 10 are presumed too young to form mens rea and thus to commit a crime. This is known as doli incapax, which is rebuttable for those up to the age of 14 under the Children. Gives relevant concession to children.
  • Corey Davis Case
    • Proves converging moral perspectives/contention exists regarding the age of criminal responsibility.
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
    • Australia is a signatory, and our legislation tries to align with these common principles.
  • Senior NSW Children’s Court Magistrate Stephen Scarlett: “children today are better educated and more sophisticated than their counterparts in rural Britain in 1769” ((Jacobsen, SMH April 2012)
    • Suggests out-dated Australian laws regarding juvenile offenders.
  • “Children who commit serious crimes go unpunished” (Juvenile Justice – NSW Parliamentary Research Service)
    • Our laws regarding juvenile offenders could be too relaxed.

 

So in full, the finished scaffold for your HSC Legal Studies Essays should look something like this:

Consider Buying Notes

If you need reliable notes or simply want to check your notes are right, take a look at HSC-Notes.com.

Their Legal notes are crafted by the 99+ ATAR Club and provide concise answers to the HSC Syllabus dot points with what you need to know for your exams. Diagrams, mind maps, tables, dot points, paragraphs, sources are included to aid your learning.

With these notes you can spend less time rewriting your textbook and worrying about whether your notes answer the syllabus dot points correctly and spend more time learning and practicing your skills knowing your notes are accurate and concise.

Head on over to HSC-Notes to get your HSC subject notes now

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Sophia Zou recently completed the HSC in 2013, so fortunately for AOS Community Blog-readers and perhaps less fortunately for her, the memories of Year 12 are still fresh in her head. Sophia considers it her mission here to help students make the most of their final years at high school. Her interests include political science, Simon and Garfunkel, and pretending to be a tea aficionado. Alongside tutoring at Art of Smart Education, she spends her time playing the piano and studying Government & IR and Languages at the University of Sydney.

 

 

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