Oxford student who stabbed boyfriend may escape jail term because she was too bright

An Oxford student could be spared from having to serve jail time after stabbing her boyfriend in the leg.

Lavinia Woodward, 24, admitted to a charge of assaulting her ex-boyfriend, unlawfully wounding him by stabbing him in the leg on Sept 30 last year. 

The reason behind the leniency? Miss Woodward is seen as one of the brightest prospects in the medical world and the judge presiding over her case felt that the medical student is considered too bright to have such talent wasted - in jail, that is. 

Who is she?

Lavinia Woodward is an aspiring heart surgeon who studied at Christ Church College, Oxford and is one of the top students of the institution.  

The young woman's ambition is to cure heart disease, according to the Telegraph, and she is apparently one of the best students in the faculty, topping her year in the pre-clinical tests that all medical students have to take at the end of their third year.

Miss Woodward has also had her name published in established medical journals such as Annals of Thoracic Surgery, Hypertension, and The Journal of Physiology. 

During her hearing, she was said to have received the highest marks any medical student in the college has scored in many years and is also under the tutelage of a top heart surgeon. The possibility that she would have to pursue an alternate occupation away from medicine would be a loss for the profession.

She used to attend Sir James Henderson British School of Milan before leaving for Oxford in 2011. Unfortunately, that was where things took a downward turn, with the student getting hooked onto cocaine and other vices.

What did she do?

According to the Telegraph, Miss Woodward had gotten into an argument with her then-boyfriend, Thomas Fairclough - a Cambridge PhD law student - on Sept 30.

During the drug-fuelled row, Woodward hurled a laptop, a glass, and a jam jar at him. When he threatened to call her mother, she proceeded to punch him, before grabbing a bread knife and stabbing him in the leg.

The medical student also faces two other allegations of assaulting Mr Fairclough on Nov 25 and Dec 12 that same year. She denied both of these charges at an earlier hearing.

Lavinia Woodward is an aspiring heart surgeon who studied at Christ Church College, Oxford and is one of the top students in the institution.  
Photo: Lavinia Woodward/Facebook

The verdict

Miss Woodward's charge of unlawful wounding would, according to Judge Ian Pringle, would normally result in a custodial sentence.

However, Judge Pringle decided to take into account Miss Woodward's potential future and contributions, and to take an "exceptional course" when sentencing her.

"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," the judge said.

Francis FitzGibbon QC, the chair of the Criminal Bar Association has defended the judge's decision, rejecting any claims that his decision reflected any kind of bias. 

"I can't see any evidence that this was doing her a favour because she was a student at Oxford," according to the chairman. "He has given her a chance to get clean."

After Judge Pringle's comments, it appears that Miss Woodward would be allowed to continue her studies in Christ Church College once the case has been concluded.

However, recent developments have revealed that Miss Woodward had already been warned about her drug use, and was told that she would be expelled should any other incident arise.

This is not the first time that an offender has been let off easy due to their potential contribution to society, or the field that they are in.

Just last year, Brock Turner, a former Stanford University Student finished his sentence of 12 weeks in prison after he was charged with raping a young woman who had been intoxicated at a frat party behind a wheelie bin.

The original recommended sentence was six years.

The judge, Aaron Persky, had decided on a lenient sentence after taking into account Mr Brock's skill and potential in swimming and that "a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him".