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Oxford student appeals against suspended sentence for stabbing boyfriend

The Guardian logo The Guardian 6 days ago Mattha Busby
Lavinia Woodward at Oxford crown court in September 2017. © PA Lavinia Woodward at Oxford crown court in September 2017.

A University of Oxford student who avoided prison after stabbing her boyfriend has appealed against the suspended sentence handed to her.

Lavinia Woodward, 24, received a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, for stabbing her then partner with a breadknife in a drunken attack.

The presiding judge in the original case reportedly told Woodward that a custodial sentence could damage her career prospects and was therefore too severe.

The judge’s remarks led to accusations of leniency and tabloid headlines including “Too clever for prison”. They also provoked a debate about social and racial inequalities in the judicial system.

Woodward – who lives in Milan with her mother – has now applied to the court of appeal to review her sentence, which was delivered at Oxford crown court in September this year.

“Lavinia Woodward has submitted an application for permission to appeal,” said a spokesman for the Judicial Communications Office. “The next stage is for a single judge to consider the application on paper and if permission is granted it then the substantive appeal will be heard in court before three judges.”

The stabbing occurred on 30 September 2016 when Woodward’s partner, a University of Cambridge student whom she met on Tinder, visited her in Oxford.

He infuriated Woodward after contacting her mother with his concerns about her drinking. She became “extremely angry” and began throwing objects at him before stabbing him in the leg.

Woodward pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding and has since returned to a clinic for continued treatment for drug and alcohol problems and an eating disorder.

Woodward was an aspiring heart surgeon and medicine student at Christ Church college who has had articles published in medical journals. She was originally meant to be sentenced earlier this year after admitting unlawful wounding, but the judge deferred her sentence for four months to allow her to demonstrate good behaviour.

As part of these efforts, she voluntarily suspended her studies at Oxford but could return, take an academic research job or begin a PhD at another university.

Prior to sentencing the judge Ian Pringle QC said: “It seems to me that if this was a one-off, a complete one-off, to prevent this extraordinarily 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.”

James Sturman QC, her lawyer, said the judge’s comments had been taken out of context and it was wrong to say the defendant had been treated leniently because of her academic achievement.

Passing sentence, Pringle said there were “many mitigating features” in her case, including her spotless prior record, and added: “I find that you were genuinely remorseful following this event.”

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

“You have demonstrated over the last nine months that you are determined to rid yourself of your alcohol and drug addiction and have undergone extensive treatment including counselling to address the many issues that you face,” he continued.

The judicial watchdog later threw out three complaints against Pringle because they did not relate to his personal conduct.

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