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Unique criminal law course produces first graduates

Unique criminal law course produces first graduates

The first students of the new criminal prosecutions program at the University of Wollongong (UOW) have graduated alongside former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery QC.

The first students of the new criminal prosecutions program at the University of Wollongong (UOW) have graduated alongside former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery QC.

The first graduates of the University of Wollongong's Criminal Prosecutions Program receive Master of Laws alongside Nicholas Cowdery QC.

Last week, four students from the postgraduate course received their Master of Laws alongside the former NSW DPP, who was recognised with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws.

The specialist criminal prosecutions program is unique in Australia, and offers criminal prosecutors and criminal defence practitioners a suite of subjects and hands-on opportunities designed to develop responsible and skilful advocacy.

"The course was broken into off-campus and intensive face-to-face components," said Joel Hiscox, who is employed by the ACT DPP and accepted his testamur for a Master of Laws with Distinction last week.

Students study by distance and come to the campus for three intensive days per subject, to be lectured by staff with high-level practical experience.

Teachers have so far included Cowdery, professorial fellows at UOW, senior crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC, new NSW DPP Lloyd BabbSC, and a number of judges who assisted with expert evidence and advocacy intensives.

"We really make an effort to have top quality engagement with the practising profession," said program director Professor Dan Howard, who added that an intensive on closing statements held at the Downing Centre last year was a highlight.

The course offers a number of electives including criminal trial and appellate advocacy; prosecution of transnational humanitarian law; international law; criminal jurisdiction; studies in transnational crime; comparative criminal justice and special studies in prosecutions.

"I'm not aware of any courses like this in the Asia-Pacific. There are certainly some prosecution courses in the US, most of which seem to be run through professional organisations in-house," said Howard.

"It's a very specialist program. This is a competitive area and I do think the program gives people a significant edge," he said, emphasising the importance of good training to the criminal justice system.

"We're dealing with rights and people going to jail because of what these lawyers do or don't do. We spend a lot of time on avoiding miscarriages of justice, making sure people are not being overzealous, and taking a balanced approach to prosecuting and defending."

While only nine students finished the course this semester, Howard said numbers were growing and the intake of around 22 students last semester and eight this spring means there would be an increase of graduates in the next cohort.

"I'd be happy to see a steady cohort of 25 students each semester," said Howard.

Having a law degree is usually sufficient for entry into the program, but Howard said because it is vocationally orientated the program tends to attract those currently working in prosecution offices.

"We have quite a few senior people - including a senior barrister - who have come to study because they want to keep their mind alive, and they love it," he said.

Students can elect to undertake the course as a Graduate Certificate in Law (Criminal Prosecutions) or Master of Laws (Criminal Prosecutions).

Stephanie Quine

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

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