Dr. Stephen Swann

Lecturer in English Common Law
Dr. Stephen Swann
Office hours:
during teaching weeks:
Tue 14:30-15:30
Wed 09:30-10:30

during non-teaching weeks:
please use the appointments calendar to book a consultation via Zoom

otherwise by appointment

Unfortunately, as I recover from illness last week, I am only available for consultation via Zoom this week.


For Wintersemester 2022/23 I am offerning the following courses: 

Common Law Legal Sources (205362)

Tues. 10:00 - 12:00 (SR 121)

This course aims to provide a grounding in the fundamentals of finding, interpreting, applying, and citing the main sources of law in common law jurisdictions, in particular the English legal system, and closely connected mixed legal systems (such as Scotland). Supported by practical exercises enabling students to ‘learn by doing’, the course is intended to equip participants with the skills needed to tackle mainstream legal research in Anglo-American legal systems, to evaluate and synthesise various forms of legal material and to ‘write up the law’ (in particular, using OSCOLA). In the first half of the course the focus is on legislation and case judgments. The second half of the course looks at works of authority, the proposals of law reform bodies, restatements, and other key texts, which often contribute to defining or re-defining the law.

Besides developing practical skills in using legal material in anglophone legal systems, the course assists participants in gaining insight into different methods and styles of law-making – both in contrast to civilian legal systems and (in sometimes nuanced ways) as between the common law (and mixed) systems under consideration. The wide-ranging review of the main sources of law and how they function brings to light choices in the legal system about the constitutional relationship of the judiciary to the legislature, affinity to other legal systems, systematisation of the law, and its accessibility and usability. The course concludes with a review of techniques of judicial reasoning, which plays such a pivotal role in practice in fixing the boundaries of judge-led legal innovation.

Recommended reading:

Specific reading material will be indicated on Moodle and in course literature

Criminal Law (205366)

Wed. 12:00 - 14:00 (SR 127)

This course reviews the bulk of the general principles of the criminal law of England and Wales and the specific substantive law for offences against the person and property which form its core. Beginning with a consideration of the purposes of the criminal law and an overview of the procedural framework, initial lectures will focus on the fundamental concepts and general principles of liability. These will be illustrated and reviewed in particular by study of the law on homicide and other offences to the person. Study of the general principles of ‘basic’ criminal liability will conclude with an introduction to some issues of capacity and defences. The second part of the lectures will consider in turn the law specific to other core offences ranging from property offences such as criminal damage, theft, fraud and kindred offences of taking and dishonesty through to sexual offences. Time permitting, the focus of the final lectures returns to the general part of the criminal law by considering ‘derivative’ criminal liability, namely liability based on initiation of, or involvement in, criminal activity as accessories or for inchoate offences. Lectures will highlight problems of theory and practice, exploring debates and difficulties arising from current law. Understanding will be supported by opportunities in revision to apply the law to problem scenarios.

Recommended reading:

Nicola Monaghan, Criminal Law, 7th edn, Oxford University Press (2022)

Students should consider purchasing a copy of a criminal law statute book, such as Matthew Dyson (ed.), Blackstone’s Statutes on Criminal Law, 32nd edn, Oxford University Press (2022). Unmarked statute books may be used in the exam.

Interests in Goods (205364)

Wed. 14:00 - 16:00 (Fürstengraben 1 - UHG, HS 144)

**This course is no longer running in the current winter semester. However, it will be offered again in a later winter semester.**

This course, which straddles various sub-fields of the civil and commercial law of obligations and property, takes a broad look at interests in goods in English law – what forms such property rights take and how they are passed to another. Besides considering what (and in which circumstances) animate and inanimate things are recognised as ‘goods’, the first part of the course will focus on how possession, rights to possession and their protection by means of rules of tortious liability have moulded this area of private law, giving it a shape distinctively different from civilian systems driven by a more abstract ownership ‘motor’. Material in this part will take in bailment and questions of the proprietary effect of hire.

For the middle bulk of the course attention will then turn to the mechanisms by which property interests in goods may be acquired. Besides sale of goods – the commercially and statistically most important pillar of this field of property law – this part of the course will review the law on gifts, finding, and mixing.

Finally, the course will consider pledges of goods and other mechanisms by which possessory or proprietary security rights over goods may be created.

Recommended reading:

Michael Bridge, Personal Property Law, 4th edn (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2015)

Introduction to Common Law (205361)

Tues. 12:00 - 14:00 (August-Bebel-Str. 4, HS [Domaschk-Hörsaal])

This course introduces the characteristic features and machinery of the Anglo-American legal systems. The main focus will be on English law, but reference will be made to a range of other common law legal systems and key contrasts within the Anglo-American legal family will be highlighted. The first part of the course focuses on the origin of the common law family of legal systems and the essential attributes of those systems (including their equitable jurisdiction) - not merely in contrast to codified civilian systems, but also in comparison with mixed legal systems in the British Islands and beyond. Particular attention will be given to the legal sources, in particular the case law method and how the common law judicial mindset has helped shape the manner and style of legislative law-making. The following part of the course takes a selective look at aspects of substantive and adjectival law, including the law of remedies and trial by jury, which have contributed to the distinctive qualities and vocabulary of English law and other common law legal systems. Finally, consideration is given to the personnel (judges and lawyers) that operate the machinery of the common law and how they are trained, selected, and organised in the English legal setting.

Recommended reading:

Specific reading material will be indicated on Moodle and in course literature.

Introduction to Property Law (205363)

Thurs. 10:00 - 12:00 (Fürstengraben 1 - UHG, HS 235)

This course introduces students to the general framework of rules governing property rights in goods, land and intangibles in English law. The first part of the course is concerned with fundamental questions: what distinguishes a property right from other rights, what may be the subject-matter of a property right, and what are the permissible contours of a property right? The course proceeds to review how such rights are acquired – in particular by transfer – and what complications arise when property rights are co-owned. In conclusion the course will examine the main security rights recognised in English property law.

The course takes a comprehensive look at property law across the range of ‘things’, while leaving some of the detail which is specific to certain forms of property to be addressed elsewhere: knowledge gained from this course thus provides a general underpinning for a number of other property-related courses, namely those on trusts, land law, and interests in goods. The course should help students to navigate safely through what at first may appear to be an arcane conceptual jungle and to familiarise themselves with the distinctive tools of property law in the common law legal systems. The course highlights the surprising diversity of rules (in origin and in approach) within this field of private law, introduces students to the complexities inherent in ‘rights in rights’, and illustrates how common law and equitable rules interact.

Recommended reading:

Alison Clarke and Paul Kohler, Property Law: Commentary and Materials (Cambridge University Press 2005)

Students may wish to purchase a copy of a property law statute book, such as Meryl Thomas (ed.), Blackstone’s Statutes on Property Law, 30th edn, Oxford University Press (2022). This book will assist with learning on this course and in addition can be used in written assessments on related courses, such as ‘Trust Law’ and ‘Land Law’.

Land Law (205365)

Thurs. 14:00 - 16:00 (SR 113)

This module examines special rules of English property law relating to land. The first half of the course considers title to land with a focus on (i) the problems of unregistered title and the scheme of registration of title and (ii) acquisition of title by adverse possession. The lectures then address the question of burdens on title: how are these protected in the registered and unregistered land systems? The remainder of the course is devoted to a detailed consideration in turn of the main types of property right, such as those of tenants and secured lenders as well as the limited rights of use or control typically granted to neighbouring landowners. The module aims to foster critical analysis of legal development in this field in its historical and socio-economic context. There will be opportunity in revision sessions to assess understanding by applying the law to problem scenarios.

Recommended reading:

Ben McFarlane, Nicholas Hopkins, and Sarah Nield, Land Law, 2nd edn (Oxford: OUP, 2020)

Students should purchase a copy of a property law statute book, such as Meryl Thomas (ed.), Blackstone’s Statutes on Property Law, 30th edn, Oxford University Press (2022). Unmarked statute books may be used in the exam.

Mailing list

English_law mailing list

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