Lavinia Woodward: Oxford student who was told she could avoid prison sentence 'due to her extraordinary talent' is spared jail

‘Whilst you are a clearly highly-intelligent individual, you had an immaturity about you,’ judge tells aspiring heart surgeon

Harriet Agerholm
Monday 25 September 2017 17:18
Lavinia Woodward received a 10-month suspended jail sentence after she stabbed her boyfriend with a bread knife
Lavinia Woodward received a 10-month suspended jail sentence after she stabbed her boyfriend with a bread knife

An Oxford University student who was told she may be spared a custodial sentence for stabbing her boyfriend due to her “extraordinary talent” has avoided jail.

Lavinia Woodward, a medical student and aspiring heart surgeon, attacked her ex-boyfriend with a bread knife in a drug-fuelled rage at her university accommodation at Christ Church College, Oxford Crown Court heard.

At an earlier hearing, 24-year-old Woodward had pleaded guilty to unlawfully wounding her partner.

The offence would normally carry a custodial sentence, but Judge Ian Pringle QC previously suggested she could be spared jail because of her academic record.

“It seems to me that if this was a one-off, a complete one-off, to prevent this extraordinary able young lady from not following her long-held desire to enter the profession she wishes to would be a sentence which would be too severe,” he said in May.

The judge’s comments drew criticism for being unduly lenient and demonstrating class bias.

On Monday, imposing a 10-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months, Judge Pringle told her: “There are many mitigating features in your case.

“Principally, at the age of 24 you have no previous convictions of any nature whatsoever.

“Secondly, I find that you were genuinely remorseful following this event and, indeed, though it was against your bail conditions, you contacted your partner to fully confess your guilt and your deep sorrow for what happened.

“Thirdly, whilst you are a clearly highly intelligent individual, you had an immaturity about you which was not commensurate for someone of your age.”

On 30 December, Woodward’s Cambridge-educated boyfriend, who she met on the Tinder dating app, visited her in Oxford.

When he realised she had been drinking, he contacted her mother via Skype.

The judge said: “When you discovered this, you became extremely angry, starting to throw objects around.

“It is clear from the transcript of the 999 call that your partner summoned the help of the police before you picked up a bread knife which was in the room and struck a blow with it to his lower leg.

“In the course of the incident two of his fingers also received cuts. Your partner managed to partly restrain you, albeit then you started to turn the knife on yourself and he had to disarm you to prevent further self-harm.

“When the emergency services arrived, it was abundantly clear that you were intoxicated, deeply distraught and mentally disturbed. You were taken to the police station in a very distressed state.”

The defence argued that Woodward was suffering following a “very damaging” previous relationship, during which she was introduced to Class A drugs.

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