IDA or: How a kindly old lady can help you answer a substantive law question.

A good way to tackle a substantive law or scenario question is to think of a little old lady.  Do it now, go on.  Think of the oldest, wrinkliest old lady that you can.  She could look a bit like your Nan or that little old lady you see at the bus stop every morning or the woman who lives near you that tells you off every other day for bouncing a ball against her garden wall.  Have you done it?  Good.

Now we’re going to name this little old lady IDA and each letter of her name represents the three things that you need to do throughout your answer ...

• Identify
• Define
• Apply

Your answer and each paragraph within it should be made up of these 3 things.

After reading the scenario attached to the questions you will firstly IDENTIFY a crime that you think has been committed:

“After taking the wallet from Belinda’s coat Derek may be liable for theft ...”

Then you will DEFINE it:

”... which is defined in s. 1 of the Theft Act 1968.”

The rest of your answer will then be dedicated to APPLYING the relevant crime to the scenario.

This application will be made up of lots of little IDAs as you identify, define and apply the relevant areas of law relevant to the scenario:

“Firstly property must be appropriated.  Property is defined in s. 4 and in this scenario is the wallet, which is personal property.

The definition of appropriation is to ‘assume an owner’s right’ (s. 3).  Derek appropriated the property when he ... etc.”

You should then repeat this pattern for every relevant area of law for every crime or defence that you have identified from your reading of the scenario.


• When applying it is very easy to fall into the trap of just saying ” ... and Derek does satisfy this” without using the facts of the scenario to back up why you have come to this conclusion.  You must always back up your conclusion with evidence from the scenario.

• The question is not asking you to describe everything you know about theft.  The question is asking you to discuss the criminal liability of the defendant in the scenario.  You therefore only need to discuss the parts of the crime that are relevant to the scenario.  If you try to write about everything you will quickly discover that some of the law is not relevant to the scenario and that you will almost certainly run out of time for the rest of your answer.

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