Family-friendly podcast decodes basics of criminal law for children

In “Translating Criminal Law: Rated G,” law professor Peter Sankoff co-hosts with his 11-year-old daughter and learns tween secrets in return.

Peter Sankoff and his 11-year-old daughter Penny co-host the podcast Translating Criminal Law: Rated G

Peter Sankoff and his 11-year-old daughter Penny co-host the podcast "Translating Criminal Law: Rated G," explaining the basics of Canadian criminal law in a fun, family-friendly way. (Photo: Supplied)

With a charming sidekick and a fun format, University of Alberta Faculty of Law professor Peter Sankoff has created a new podcast to simplify concepts of criminal law for Canadians aged 10 to 100.

Translating Criminal Law: Rated G debuted Jan. 11, co-hosted by Sankoff, a professor of criminal law with a part-time appellate practice, and his daughter Penny, a smart and sunny 11-year-old who’s inherited her father’s gift for direct and concise communication with a side of sass. 

“It’s a chance for me to do something fun with my kids, and I think it’s also a chance to demystify some aspects of the criminal law.”

Peter Sankoff

Together, they spend about 30 minutes per episode exploring basic elements of criminal law in ways children can easily grasp but adults will find entertaining and informative, too. 

The “G” rating of the title is meant to assure parents and teachers that while real-life legalese will most definitely be deconstructed, the podcast will not stray into the grittier aspects of criminal law. Sankoff also promises it will be jargon-free.

“It’s a chance for me to do something fun with my kids, and I think it’s also a chance to demystify some aspects of the criminal law,” Sankoff said. “Many of the rules that govern our criminal justice system seem archaic and sometimes incomprehensible, so I thought if I could explain them to an 11-year-old, they’d be understandable to anyone."

As for Penny, she said she’s always wanted to do a podcast and thought it would be a lot of fun.

“Whenever I listen to my dad recording his other podcast (Paw and Order, about Canadian animal law) I always would think about what I would say if I was doing that, and now I get the chance to do that!"

Based on the first episode’s smooth production and cheerfully self-deprecating tone, the concept behind TCL: Rated G is a winner.

Each episode contains a Question of the Day from Penny, which her dad answers with the help of one—and just one—Big Word of the Day, a.k.a. a term commonly used in criminal law. He’s also permitted one Latin Word of the Day, because law is so rife with words from the classical language that many non-lawyers don’t understand. Both moments are underscored with their own distinct audio cue, ensuring listeners mark the details and get a smile, too.

Q & A plus quizzes

In the first episode, Penny poses the obvious opening question: “What does the criminal law do?” and Sankoff breaks it down clearly and succinctly into four major sections—it sets rules, provides deterrence, provides safety and punishes those who break the rules—while also explaining deterrence and the Latin term, nexus.

Once the day’s subject is explained, in more than a little detail, Sankoff quizzes Penny on the content of what she was just taught. With his 20 years of teaching experience, Sankoff sets questions that are neither dead easy nor impossible to answer for those paying attention.

Finally, once Sankoff has downloaded each episode’s worth of knowledge to Penny, she returns the favour by schooling him on something that a tween knows inside out, but a dad his age surely does not. In episode one, it was the names and credentials of TikTok’s most famous current dance stars. If you’re a parent looking for a way to connect with your kids, this feature alone is worth tracking down the podcast. 

Each episode takes the Sankoffs about two hours to record, with the editing outsourced. They intend to release a new episode every two weeks. 

“I hope listeners will enjoy the light, breezy format and learn a bit about why our criminal justice system operates as it does,” said Sankoff. “Plus, I hope to learn plenty from my daughter about what’s happening in pop culture.”