Lesson 1: Introduction to Criminal Law


Grade Level



2-4 periods

Lesson Plan (PDF)


Students will be introduced to the basic principles of criminal law and the Criminal Code of Canada. Students begin with some background on the elements of criminal law. They will learn that most of the criminal laws in Canada are in the Criminal Code of Canada and that those laws apply across the nation.  Criminal defences and procedures will also be discussed. Finally, students will think critically about morality and how it is applied to criminal law.


By the end of the lesson, students will:

  • Understand the key elements and application of criminal law, the Criminal Code of Canada and the criminal court process
  • Know who is involved in criminal court processes and what they do
  • Be able to name some of the types of criminal offences and charges
  • Know the defences in criminal cases
  • Form opinions on the subject of morality and the law

Focus Questions

  1. What are some of the types of crime according to the Criminal Code of Canada?
  2. What are the elements of a crime?
  3. What happens when a crime is committed?
  4. Who is involved in the criminal court process? What do they do?
  5. What are some criminal offences?
  6. What are some criminal defences?
  7. How are morals connected to criminal law? What is your opinion on the subject?

Teaching Summary

Topic 1: Definition and Principles of Crime

This is a detailed introduction to criminal law in Canada. Students will have background information to read and use while working with three case studies in Handout 1: Criminal Law.  

Topic 2: Criminal Court Procedure

Students will use the information on Handout 2: Criminal Court Procedure to answer 14 questions on Handout 3: What do you Know? This is an overview of how a criminal case progresses through the court.

Topic 3: Criminal Offences and Defences

Background information will list some offences and criminal defences for the students to consider.  They will identify a number of offences on Handout 5: Working with Criminal Offences and Defences and look at some short case scenarios to decide what the offence is, why it occurred, if it could have been prevented and how the offender should be punished.  Time permitting, students will do in-depth research into the elements of a specific defence and will look at precedent setting case(s). They will explain the function and the purpose of the defence.

Topic 4: Morality and Criminal Law

Students will read Handout 6: The Wolfenden Report (1957) and Morality and the Law and then complete the activities. A free write exercise and discussion will challenge students’ critical thinking skills.