Lavinia Woodward: Judge who spared Oxford University student jail for stabbing boyfriend investigated

Judicial Conduct Investigations Office is looking into a complaint against Judge Ian Pringle 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 29 September 2017 09:45
Lavinia Woodward avoided prison, after receiving a 10-month suspended jail sentence for attacking the young man with a bread knife
Lavinia Woodward avoided prison, after receiving a 10-month suspended jail sentence for attacking the young man with a bread knife

A judge who spared an Oxford University student jail for stabbing her boyfriend is being investigated by a judicial watchdog.

Judge Ian Pringle handed Lavinia Woodward a 10-month prison sentence but suspended it for 18 months, meaning she will not go to prison unless she commits another offence or violates the conditions of her release.

The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) confirmed it had received a complaint against the judge, adding: “Any findings of misconduct against judicial office holders are published on the JCIO website at the conclusion of investigations.”

The watchdog can “only deal with complaints about a judicial office-holder’s personal conduct – it cannot deal with complaints about judicial decisions or about case management,” according to its website.

Woodward, a 24-year-old medical student at Christ Church, was due to be sentenced earlier this year after admitting unlawful wounding, but the judge gave her four months to prove herself.

The attack took place when Woodward’s partner, a Cambridge University student, visited her in Oxford on 30 December.

He realised she had been drinking and contacted her mother for assistance. When Woodward discovered this, she became “extremely angry” and began throwing objects.

The victim called 999 for help as Woodward picked up a bread knife and stabbed him in the lower leg, before being restrained by her boyfriend as she tried to turn the weapon on herself.

Critics claim that had Woodward been a male, then she would have received a prison sentence for the crime

Adjourning the sentencing in May, Judge Pringle described Woodward as an “extraordinary, able young lady”, adding that it would be “too severe” to jail her and prevent her entering her career.

Oxford Crown Court heard Woodward was later admitted to a clinic for treatment for addictions to Class A drugs and alcohol, and an eating disorder.

At a sentencing hearing on Monday, Judge Pringle said he deferred his decision to allow Woodward to continue with counselling and demonstrate that she had overcome the addictions.

He described Woodward as “deeply distraught and mentally disturbed” during the incident, adding: “Whilst this was clearly a case where your behaviour must have been extremely intimidating to your partner, the actual injuries were relatively minor and certainly less serious in the context of this offence.”

Judge Pringle noted that Woodward had no previous convictions and appeared “genuinely remorseful”, breaking her bail conditions to contact her former boyfriend to “confess her guilt and her deep sorrow for what happened”.

Addressing the defendant, he added: “Whilst you are clearly a highly intelligent individual, you had an immaturity about you which was not commensurate for someone of your age.

“As the reports from the experts make clear, you suffer from an emotionally unstable personality disorder, a severe eating disorder and alcohol drug dependence.

“Finally, and most significantly, you have demonstrated over the last nine months that you are determined to rid yourself of your alcohol/drug addiction and have undergone extensive treatment... You have demonstrated to me a strong and unwavering determination so to do despite the enormous pressure under which you were put.”

A barrister defending Woodward claimed she was a “different woman” since the start of the case and would continue treatment, while criticising media coverage and claiming she had been fired from a job over the attack.

James Sturman QC said his client was not being “treated leniently because she is intelligent”, arguing that she was a vulnerable, damaged young woman.

The dean of Woodward’s college, the Very Rev Professor Martyn Percy, said she had voluntarily suspended her medical studies, and described the case as a “matter of regret and sadness”.

He added: “The question of her future will now be decided by the university, which has procedures in place when a student is the subject of a criminal conviction.”

Woodward’s sentence sparked widespread outrage, with campaigners representing male victims of domestic abuse warning that it could prevent people coming forward.

Mark Brooks, chairman of the ManKind Initiative, branded Woodward’s sentence “unfair” and said she would have been expected to go to prison had she been a man.

“When male victims see this case, to them it will actually enforce that view, that male victims are not taken as seriously as female victims,” he added.

“It is unfair because we would expect a man who committed this type of crime to go to prison and rightly so, so the question has to be asked why it wasn’t the case here.”

It came after the Crown Prosecution Service announced plans to encourage male victims of sexual and domestic abuse to come forward.

Additional reporting by PA

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