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Lavinia Woodward is a student in studying in Christ Church college, Oxford who gained media attention after stabbing her now ex-boyfriend and the subsequent controversial decision by a judge to spare her of a jail sentence as it would damage her career.
Woodward met her ex-boyfriend, a Cambridge PhD student, through online dating and, according to the prosecution, became 'erratic' and rude towards the victim during the relationship.
On September 30th, 2016, Woordward's behaviour "deteriorated" and when her boyfriend attempted to skype Woodward's mother she punched him in the face, stabbed him in the leg with a bread knife and cut his fingers, she also hurled a laptop, glass and jam jar at her wounded boyfriend before stabbing herself.
She admitted a charge of unlawful wounding at Oxford Crown Court. Judge Ian Pringle described it as 'Pretty awful' and claimed that normally a custodial sentence would be given however he deferred sentencing her claiming "It seems to me that if this was a one-off, a complete one-off." Instead he placed her under a restraining order and told her to stay drug-free and not to re-offend. Judge Pringle is expected to give the sentence on September 25th, 2017.
The judge's statements quickly caught the attention of the media and organizations and quickly became a controversial issue on gender and class based inequality in the British justice system. The Independent reported, "The case of Lavinia Woodward exposes the troubling inequality at the heart of our justice system" and critics claimed that if she was either a male or from a less affluent background the law wouldn't be as lenient.
However, the Guardian quoting Francis FitzGibbon QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association and Paul Mendelle QC former chairman of the Criminal Bar Association dismissed the criticism pointing out that her psychiatric issues would make a jail sentence catastrophic. Woodward's Facebook had to be deleted due to online abuse and her lawyer's also faced online threats.
Oxford University also denied the judge's statement that she will be allowed to return to studies. The university stated that no one outside can guarantee her right to study and the final decision will be made based on the health, wellbeing and best interests of both the student and the wider student community.
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- "Oxford University medical student with promising career could avoid jail after stabbing ex-boyfriend at Christ Church". Oxford Mail. 2017-05-16. Retrieved 2017-06-28.
- "Oxford student Lavinia Woodward 'may avoid jail' for knife attack". BBC News. 2017-05-17. Retrieved 2017-05-28.
- "There's a troubling inequality at the heart of our justice system". The Independent. 2017-05-17. Retrieved 2017-05-28.
- "Lavinia Woodward can't avoid prison just because she is clever". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2017-05-28.
- correspondent, Owen Bowcott Legal affairs (2017-05-19). "Student who stabbed ex-boyfriend deletes Facebook page after abuse". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-05-28.
- "Oxford University student Lavinia Woodward: 'No guarantees' over return". BBC News. 2017-05-22. Retrieved 2017-05-28.