Criminal Law


95 pages
ISBN 0-458-96140-X




Reviewed by Sam Coghlan

Sam Coghlan was Deputy Director and Senior Consultant of the Thames Ontario Library Service Board, Southwestern Ontario.


This smooth-reading introduction to the principles of criminal procedure and law is not a reference book. Its emphasis on procedure is fitting, as the general public is more often concerned with how criminal law is enforced than with what is criminal or why.

Following a brief description of why criminal law exists, the author discusses the process from arrest to sentencing, with particular note being made of drug laws and of young law breakers. Explanation is clear but facile and sometimes too simplistic (e.g., comparing criminal law to a carnival as it balances the demands of police for power to make searches against the desire of citizens for full protection of their privacy). The concept of balance is crucial to comprehending the nature of criminal lawmaking, but the author is too cursory in his presentation. Nonetheless, the style remains lucid and a broad explication of the general process and concepts is supplied.

Unfortunately, the chapter on young law-breakers is largely outdated as the new Young Offenders Act came into effect in Ontario on April 2, 1984. The author had anticipated it somewhat and includes a general summary of changes effected in the law.

An aberration appears in that several drug-related offences are discussed in depth although no other offences are described in the book. This may result from the fact that the Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drug Act are separate from the Criminal Code, but it creates an unwarranted emphasis on these particular offences.

Summaries supplied in point form at the end of each chapter are useful for mental review. However, they do not take the place of an index, which should have been provided. The inclusion of “Points of Law” set apart from the rest of the text is sometimes useful for stressing crucial concepts, but it is as often distracting because the points are irrelevant or not significant.

In total, the book gives an adequate introduction to criminal law for those who want only an outline. Unfortunately, the cover asks questions of the sort that would lead one to think this is a reference book. It is not.


Crystal, Mark Melvin, “Criminal Law,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed January 23, 2022,