An Introduction to Criminal Law


436 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-458-95340-7




Reviewed by L.C. Green

L.C. Green is a university professor of political science and an
honorary professor of law at the University of Alberta.


Criminal law textbooks, and even introductory works, frequently tend to be somewhat dry, and often seem to be mere tabulations of the Code with accompanying comment. No such complaint can be made of Professor Parker’s Introduction to Criminal Law. At a time when there is pressure from both “pro-choice” and “pro-life” groups, a single illustration will suffice. The trend toward liberalising the law concerning abortion dates from the 1939 decision by Macnaughten J. in the English case of Dr. Bourne. It is refreshing to find an author who not merely draws attention to the importance of this case but does not hesitate to talk about and explain what he describes as the judge’s “legal legerdemain” (pp.58-59). Equally refreshing is his refusal to fall for the feminist “he/she” propaganda, relying instead upon the Canadian Interpretation Act which baldly — and reasonably — states that “words importing male persons include female persons,” to which Professor Parker has added “and vice versa, of course” (p.viii). This Introduction is not intended for the practitioner, although he might find it of use in ascertaining the social purpose of particular aspects of the criminal law. Its purpose is rather to explain to high school and undergraduate students the nature of our criminal law in broadest outline. But beyond this reading public, the book should also appeal to a far wider readership, especially in its first four chapters. The brief outline of the history of criminal law is a masterpiece of condensation, while the discussion on law and morals covers such issues as the Hart-Devlin debate, the law on prostitution and obscenity, Morgentaler, homosexuality, and the like. In fact, the comments on “Obscenity, Pornography, Smut and Filth” (pp.68-83) should be made compulsory reading for all those now involved in this Canadian debate. Equally interesting is the discussion on economic morals, which follows. In addition, reality is given to Professor Parker’s exposition by the collection of illustrative cases which constitutes Chapter 4, which should help the legal tyro to appreciate some of the problems relating to mens rea and intention. Some of the discussion of the cases in this chapter becomes even more pertinent in the light of the analysis of insanity and crime which is to be found in Chapter 6.

The difficulty with Chapter 4 is that the cases mentioned frequently overlap the discussion in other chapters, as becomes clear from the exposition in Chapter 8 of sexual offences and rape, which must itself be read in the light of the post-script dealing with “the ‘new’ sexual offences” arising from the amendments to the Criminal Code in this area. In this connection, it is perhaps surprising that the learned author, while referring to the English case of Morgan and its Canadian equivalent Pappajohn, concerning “honest” mistake in rape, does not discuss them in the chapters dealing with sex offences, but only at pp. 164-65 on whether a mistake of fact must be reasonable — a strange defense in rape: “I thought she meant ‘yes,’ though she struggled and said ‘no’”!

Criticisms apart, and there will be criticisms of every book, Professor Parker’s Introduction to Criminal Law more than fulfills the promise of its title. For any person seriously interested to know what Canadian criminal law is all about, this book will serve as the answer to his query.


Parker, Graham, “An Introduction to Criminal Law,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 7, 2023,