An Oxford medical student stabbed her boyfriend with a bread knife. So why is she not going to prison?

Remember all the fun we had earlier this year with the Cricket Bat Case? You know the one – where the defendant, Mustafa Bashir, assaulted his wife with a cricket bat, forced her to drink bleach and was given a suspended sentence, partially because the judge took account of the defendant having been offered a professional cricketing contract? And everyone got terrifically angry about it, even though they clearly hadn’t taken the time to obtain the facts? And Diane Abbott and Harriet Harman traversed the airwaves and the plains of social media in furrowed unison to whip up the cries for the judge to be “sacked” for what he’d said, even though he hadn’t said it? And, even when, at the “slip rule” hearing where the defendant was sent to prison after it emerged that the cricketing contract was a fiction, the judge took the time to carefully explain his earlier, misreported remarks, no-one listened and wrapped themselves up in a cocoon of impervious self-righteousness? Remember all that? Yeah? What larks.

Well luckily for us, we may be about to go through it all again. Because once more, Mercury scoots in with a message of justice gone wrong, in the form of a case of domestic violence where the defendant stabbed the complainant with a bread knife, only to be assured by the judge that, when the time comes for sentence, she will most likely not be going to prison. The reason? Her “extraordinary” medical talent.

This post comes dangerously close to breaching one of my cardinal rules, vis not commenting on cases until they are concluded and the full facts (or as close to them as we can get) are known. But given that there has already been a steady buzz of interest in the case online, I thought it worth heading off some of the likely queries at the pass, not least as comparisons with the Bashir case are already circulating.

Facts

The published facts are limited. The Guardian offers us this:

“Aspiring heart surgeon Lavinia Woodward, 24, punched and stabbed her boyfriend during an alcohol-and-drug-fuelled row at Christ Church College. She admitted unlawfully wounding the Cambridge University student, who she met on the dating app Tinder. […] Woodward, who lives in Milan, Italy, with her mother, stabbed her then-boyfriend in the leg after punching him in the face. She then hurled a laptop, glass and jam jar at him during the attack on 30 September last year.”

According to Mail Online, the guilty plea was entered before Oxford Crown Court at an earlier hearing. At a hearing yesterday, sentence was deferred to 25 September 2017. In deferring, HHJ Pringle Q.C. noted that this was an “exceptional” course and indicated that come autumn she may avoid an immediate custodial sentence due to the impact such a sentence would have upon her future career:

 “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.

“What you did will never, I know, leave you, but it was pretty awful, and normally it would attract a custodial sentence, whether it is immediate or suspended,” he said.

It is further reported that Ms Woodward has had articles published in medical journals including the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, Hypertension, and The Journal of Physiology. The Telegraph quotes a source as saying that she finished top of her year in her third year pre-clinical tests at Oxford.

Finally, we are told are that her barrister informed the court that Ms Woodward had a “very troubled life”, struggled with drug addiction and had been abused by a former partner.

So what is going on here?

Deferred sentence

Deferring sentence is nowadays an unusual step to take. It is not to be mistaken for adjourning a sentence hearing, which happens all the time for various reasons – to obtain probation or psychological reports, for example. Rather a deferment is a specific statutory power (section 1 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, as you ask) which a court can use where it wants to observe the defendant’s conduct post-conviction before arriving at a final sentence. If a court is satisfied that it would be in the interests of justice, “having regard to the nature of the offence and the character and circumstances of the offender”, sentence will be deferred to a fixed later date.  Typically, we tend to see it in cases where a judge wants to see if a defendant can make a sustained effort at rehabilitation – say by holding down a job or undergoing voluntary drug or alcohol treatment. If a defendant agrees to a deferment, the court will impose “requirements” as it considers appropriate – in this case, it has been reported that the judge required that the defendant remain drug free and not re-offend.

When she comes back to court on 25 September, the judge will determine whether the defendant has substantially conformed or attempted to conform with the expectations of the court – i.e. by staying clean and keeping out of trouble – and, if she has, she can legitimately expect that she will not go immediately to prison.

Sentencing Guidelines

It appears from reports that the defendant pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding, contrary to section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. While a serious offence, it is of note that it in fact carries the same maximum sentence – 5 years’ imprisonment – as assault occasioning actual bodily harm, which was the offence in the Bashir case. It is also of note that section 20 covers two different offences – inflicting grievous bodily harm, and unlawful wounding. It is one of the many (unjustified) quirks of the law that these two offences are treated equally even though the injury caused in a wounding can be relatively minor (it merely requires a break of the skin), whereas GBH by definition entails really serious harm. Here, we know nothing about the level of injury.

As with all sentence hearings, a court is required by law to follow relevant Sentencing Guidelines published by the Sentencing Council. In this case, we look to the Assault Definitive Guideline. By plugging the facts of the offence into the grid, we theoretically arrive at a category of offence, which gives a starting point for sentence, and a range which the court can move between depending on the aggravating and mitigating factors at play. The Guideline is here:

Now, we have little idea, absent further facts, what category the judge will put this case into. We know nothing about the level of injury, the ongoing effect on the victim, and the circumstances leading up to the assault. But even if the judge were to conclude that the offence was so serious as to fall within the highest category – Category 1 – (which on the given facts I think is unlikely) this would provide a starting point of 3 years, the relevance of which is that once you take off the 1/3 credit that is awarded for a timely guilty plea (assuming that it was), you arrive at something around the 2 year mark. And the relevance of the magic 2 years is that any sentence of 2 years or under can be suspended.

This is a long-winded way of saying, simply, that on the Guidelines, the judge will not have to struggle to arrive at a sentence capable of being suspended, if, as I suspect, this is what he envisages proposing at the next hearing.

Whether he should suspend it is, of course, another matter. And it is here that we find ourselves back in Bashir territory. The parallels are striking: A defendant with no previous convictions; a serious offence of domestic violence using a weapon; and personal mitigation including a promising career. Ms Woodward’s offence is more serious in the statutory hierarchy of violent offences; however she has what appears to be powerful mitigation relating to her reported issues with substance misuse and history as a victim of domestic violence.

While there is no strict test for suspending a sentence of imprisonment, the Guideline offers the following pointers:

IMG_1428

We do not know enough to say whether any of the left hand column is made out; but it could be argued that at least two of the factors on the right apply. The court must have regard to the statutory five purposes of sentencing – punishment, reduction of crime (including by deterrence), reform and rehabilitation of offenders; protection of the public; and making reparations – and will need to assess the appropriate emphasis in any given case. While stabbing with a bread knife is plainly serious, if the injury is not particularly grave, and if the court is of the view that more can constructively be achieved by avoiding sending a promising young defendant to prison and shattering their future life prospects, instead offering in the first instance a sentence focussing on rehabilitation to address deep-rooted problems laying behind the offending, then it is arguably in service of those five principles that a suspended sentence of imprisonment, with punitive and rehabilitative requirements attached, might be imposed.

And, lest anyone be seduced by the reflexive narrative that such merciful sentences are only afforded to white, middle class defendants, let me assure you: this course (as I said in the Bashir posts) is not unusual. Where a defendant who has never been in trouble is facing a custodial sentence of  2 years or under, and where they have the prospect of employment, education or caring responsibilities, judges will often strive to avoid passing a sentence of immediate imprisonment. That is not to deny that unconscious social or racial bias plays a part in judicial decisions; basic neuroscience teaches us that it does, to some degree at least. But the suggestion that this exceptional course is only ever reserved for the Prom Queens (or whatever our British equivalent is) is tired and lazy. The reason you don’t hear about the suspended sentences handed down for less photogenic defendants – for the 19 year-old lad starting his apprenticeship, or the 48 year-old mobile hairdresser – is mainly because the media tends not to report on them.

Conclusion

It is too early to draw any conclusions. That is really the beginning and end of it. But if we must go a little further, I would observe that, although understandably surprising to the non-lawyer, there is nothing on the reported facts of this case to suggest yet that anything is amiss. We will wait and see what September brings (and hope that, given the pre-emptive press rumblings, the judge takes the step of formally publishing his sentencing remarks in full), and reassess then. But it is entirely plausible that this is a sad and difficult case where a talented young woman bearing pains that few of us can imagine acted out in an uncharacteristically raw and violent fashion, in a manner that demands condemnation, but the punishment for which the court will temper with mercy, avoiding the compounded tragedy of extinguishing a bright life in the squalid pits of our rotting prisons.

********************

POSTSCRIPT: In the event that the judge imposes a suspended sentence on 25 September, there will be calls, as with the Bashir case, for the Attorney General to apply to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient, in the hope that the Court of Appeal will increase the sentence. Offences of unlawful wounding contrary to section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 are not included in the lists of offences that can be the subject of such an application. So if you know of, or are, a politician champing at the bit to call for the sentence to be increased, screenshot this paragraph and have it in your back pocket for September: It can’t be done.

 

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66 thoughts on “An Oxford medical student stabbed her boyfriend with a bread knife. So why is she not going to prison?

  1. Please don’t forget that judges, like magistrates, are required to consider the guidelines but not necessarily to follow them. We must give reasons if we sentence outside the ranges indicated but we can do so if those reasons are valid.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting case – you mention the ‘talent’ of the accused – but I dont see that listed as a mitigating factor. Would a ‘talented’ IT security expert also have their abilities cited in such a case I wonder – they may positively impact as many lives as a surgeon by the protection of the NHS IT infrastructure.

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  3. Sorry, but this is why people lose faith in the justice system. If someone living on a council estate stabs someone while under the influence of illegal drugs they go to prison. If someone does it while attending a prestigious university they receive understanding and sympathy. Her career is already ruined, no clinic or medical institution will take on an ex addict with a criminal record for unlawful wounding.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I have to agree.Class and background make all the difference,alas.
      What bothers me as well is the thought of a person with such personal issues and substance addiction being let loose in theatre,notwithstanding her academic brilliance.

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  4. Appreciated SB. What is your view on the apparent trend of those who are particularly talented or bright, being given inequitable treatment before the law, than those who who lack those attributes? Whilst I agree that rehabilitation should be the primary driving factor when deciding sentence, it does appear that in cases such as this, as well as in R v Bashir, the courts may be placing excessive weight on these factors. Were your local bartender or retail worker in the same situation, one cannot imagine their future careers would be given the same consideration, essentially discriminating against the less talented.

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    • Interesting point. What of the victim and his future? If any excessive weight should be applied, should it not apply on the basis of the future effect on him?

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  5. Thanks for the analysis. Are people really disputing that it’s a legally-justified outcome though? I think people just think it’s unreasonable, not that the judge necessarily did anything outside of the rules. More that they think the sentence should be harsher for the level of crime.

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  6. It would be interesting to know if this exception was applied because she is an attractive young woman, or whether these things are quite common but this case made the papers because she is an attractive young woman. I suspect it’s the latter.

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  7. As a layperson I’m thankful for the explanation of the law. But I remain disturbed that people with talent and privilege are seemingly treated differently under it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • From what I have observed it is neither talent nor privilege, but prospects – however modest – that tend to weigh on a judge’s or magistrate’s mind. I have witnessed several small cases where a low-income defendant has avoided jail simply for having a job.

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    • Read the paragraph just above the conclusion. He or she makes it clear it happens in many other cases it is just that they are not reported. The media tend, now for advertising reasons, to pick cases such as this where they will get a reaction and lots of hits on their site.

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  8. Pingback: An Oxford medical student stabbed her boyfriend with a bread knife. So why is she not going to prison? | seftonblog

  9. In actual fact my daughter was at Christ Church with this young woman and she tells me that her family is very very wealthy. Hence her having a QC represent her on sentencing. No legal aid for this Defendant. The angle that will be played here, if she avoids prison, is the class angle – “one rule for the rich, one for the poor” etc. I think there is something in that as I rather suspect that a young woman who worked at Tesco with drugs issues and who stabbed her boyfriend would not have avoided prison.

    I can see the point that troubled young people who committ one off crimes like this should not go to prison, but I do struggle with the (implicit) suggestion that an aspiring doctor should be spared prison when, perhaps, a supermarket checkout worker should not.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Will the reasons ever be as direct as saying, “she reminds me of my grandaughter or the girl next door”? (Elephant in the room me thinks)

    very interesting case to follow. Feel sorry those who dont have ‘exceptional talent’, who actually face the power of the law.

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  11. Given that access to such promising careers is heavily influenced by a person’s economic circumstances and social standing – factors usually predetermined before a person’s birth – it would appear certain individuals can expect to enjoy a more lenient justice system merely by taking advantage of the opportunities they were born with.

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  12. Good stuff. I thought these calculations sounded familiar, then I remembered poring over those guidelines at the time of the Archer case (Archer was on trial, you’ll remember, following her assault on her estranged husband Titchener); my feeling then was that a low-end sentence plus a guilty plea discount ought to put her in a position to walk. (In the event the scriptwriters went for justification rather than mitigation, and she walked without a stain on her character – not entirely plausible, but handy for future plot developments.)

    As for this case, it’s worth noting that Woodward isn’t going to leave without a stain on her character – even if the sentence is suspended, the conviction will still be on her record for six years, so her path into practice isn’t going to be smooth. There’s always academia.

    After Bashir and Woodward, how would you like to complete the set with Damon Smith? This is the man who planted a viable bomb on the London Underground, in whose home the police found bomb-making materials and IS literature, and who has been charged and found guilty… under the Explosive Substances Act. No Terrorism Act (2000 or 2006) charges; unlike the Ryan McGee case, the CPS didn’t even bring a s58 charge to be sentenced alongside the explosives one. It’s a fine exhibit for my collection of discretionary Terrorism Act charging decisions, but I rather wish it wasn’t.

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  13. Suppose a top student of child psychology, say, who was looking forward to a career working with children was convicted of attacking a child. It would seem reasonable that the person’s abilities and career prospects with children would not be relevant to their sentencing in this case. I find it difficult to see how this example is legally any different from the Oxford case. Would it be? Is the judge able to take into account the talent and prospects of the defendant without taking a view on how those prospects might be affected (independently of any sentence) by the nature of the offence?

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  14. Without coming over all hang em and flog em is there not an argument that a person like this with all the myriad advantages of her birth and upbringing (wealthy family, elite education), should be dealt with more severely in respect of her drug taking and violent tendencies than someone, say, brought up by poverty stricken parents on a council estate riddled with drugs and violence. Surely the former has far less excuse for her behaviour than the latter.

    Sadly, though, I think some of the above comments are correct in that a sentencing judge is far more likely to view the former case as a “tragedy” and sentence accordingly. The brute reason for this, I think, is that by virtue of his or her social background a judge is far more likelyh to emptathise with the rich young woman gione astray than a scion of social housing.

    That’s not to say what the judge did in this case was not permissible within the terms of the senetncing guidelines, just that his discretion would have been unlikely to have exercised so generously in other cases.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Drugs and violence are also rife in wealthy backgrounds, everyone seems to assume if you come form a family with money that everything is fine and dandy. Hence, neither should be treated any differently. Wealth doesn’t always equal privilidge when we are assessing the family life or childhood trauma that may have occured. And as was mentioned, a first time, one off offence by anyone (rich or poor) often results in a suspended sentence.

      I have no knowledge of law, so this is coming from a laypersons perspective. but I studied at a top UK boarding school. The exactly the same social issue exist as on a council estate. Albeit, the rich kids have a financial advantage for procuring said drugs to fuel their addictions.

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      • Wow… how completely ignorant of you! “The same social issues exist as on a council estate” you really have no clue! I know of both “worlds” and can catagoiricaly say that the rich have no clue about what happens! Point proven with you very silly comment. Please don’t take your information from the media!

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  15. Good to know that I have another reason to ensure my publications list is up to date and to keep up with my journal articles. Unfortunately I’ve never had a drug habit, is it too late to start one?

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  16. “…the defendant stabbed the complainant with a bread knife, only to be assured by the judge that, when the time comes for sentence, she will most likely not be going to prison. The reason? Her “extraordinary” medical talent.”

    More like, her extroadinarily wealthy parents. Anyone still left who doubts that there is one law for the rich and one for the poor in 21st century Britain please take note of this. Had, for instance, she been black and from a North London housing estate would a white, upper class dominated British ‘justice’ oligarchy have made a similar exception for her? Of course not. However, anyone who now gets charged with a similar offence can always make a record of how a rich person got off for doing the same thing, wave it in a judge’s face as a legal precedent and then sue the backside off the prosecution citing clear evidence of class prejudice if he or she is convicted whether they are guilty or not. Good job, British Justice – Not!

    Moreover, far from not even caring about what impact the assault has had on the victim, Judge Pringle seemingly takes the line that the abuser was the victim: “What you did will never, I know, leave you, but it was pretty awful…” From those of us who are not part of the legal profession this just seems totally irrational and ridiculous and might suggest that the judge lacks ability in basic reasoning. Domestic violence campaigners should be protesting about this as it has set a precedent that makes getting abusers of any sex or gender sentenced a lot more difficult. Fact is, we really need to break the monopoly that the rich hold on everything in this country and their untouchability. Although Jeremy Corbyn has some very ‘strange’ pals and has entertained bigots within his own party, for reasons like this case highlights I’m definitely a fan of Labour’s election manifesto and that’s where my vote will be going in a few weeks’ time.

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  17. Hello there, thanks for your post; I hope I can be so bold as to suggest there is one very important issue which remains overlooked. You very rightly cite the guidelines for suspended sentences, which include an analysis of risk. It has been long established in sociological research that the tool relied on by the Probation Service to assess risk – the OASys – contains inherent biases against ethnic minorities. More recent research suggests this bias extends to those from marginalised socioeconomic backgrounds. I’m sure you’d agree that Judges invariably defer to PSR analyses of risk. I’m not applying any of these observations to the present case, but thought it worth mentioning as part of the general debate on disparity.

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    • A question more really to seek clarification, but what relevance is ethnic background in OASys. Surely, if it is there, it runs the risk of profiling?

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      • Sorry, only just seen this. Factors which feed into OASys scores, such as accommodation and education are loaded against those from marginalised socioeconomic backgrounds. So says the reasearch, and to be honest so says common sense. It’s a fertile source of cross-examination at parole hearings, where such scores are arrived at and then heavily relied on as evidence of bad behaviour. For example, a client may have lived with a step-parent and become homeless after the breakdown of the step-parent’s relationship with his own parent, sofa surfed, gone into care, and then found difficulties finding stable accommodation. Such a person will be given a ‘2’ score to denote significant risk. It is not difficult to ask whether or not the position he found himself in speaks to his own risk as an autonomous individual, or the absence of support for him.

        Pre-sentence reports invariably use the same logic, being drafted, as they are, by the same professionals using the same tools. These reports do not bind Judges but it is fair to say they are at least very influential. I’ve just seen the updated blog on this case which draws attention to unconscious bias. But bias which inheres in the tools used to assess risk are something altogether different, and remain overlooked.

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  18. “…the defendant stabbed the complainant with a bread knife, only to be assured by the judge that, when the time comes for sentence, she will most likely not be going to prison. The reason? Her “extraordinary” medical talent.”

    More like, her extroadinarily wealthy parents. Anyone still left who doubts that there is one law for the rich and one for the poor in 21st century Britain please take note of this. Had, for instance, she been black and from a North London housing estate would a white, upper class dominated British ‘justice’ oligarchy have made a similar exception for her? Of course not. However, anyone who now gets charged with a similar offence can always make a record of how a rich person got off for doing the same thing, wave it in a judge’s face as a legal precedent and then sue the backside off the prosecution citing clear evidence of class prejudice if he or she is convicted whether they are guilty or not. Good job, British Justice – Not!

    Moreover, far from not even caring about what impact the assault has had on the victim, Judge Pringle seemingly takes the line that the abuser was the victim: “What you did will never, I know, leave you, but it was pretty awful…” From those of us who are not part of the legal profession this just seems totally irrational and ridiculous and might suggest that the judge lacks ability in basic reasoning. Domestic violence campaigners should be protesting about this as it has set a precedent that makes getting abusers of any sex or gender sentenced a lot more difficult. Fact is, we really need to break the monopoly that the rich hold on everything in this country and their untouchability. Although Jeremy Corbyn has some very ‘strange’ pals and has entertained bigots within his own party, for reasons like this case highlights I’m definitely a fan of Labour’s election manifesto and that’s where my vote will be going in a few weeks’ time.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. It may be a moot point for the judge to defer sentencing as I would imagine that the Chancellor of her college in Oxford would also have a say in whether she is allowed to complete her studies.
    I was at university in the mid 90’s and to have been found guilty of a crime such as hers would have brought any aspiring undergraduate career to an abrupt halt as you would have been removed from the course immediately.

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  20. Pingback: The case of Lavinia Woodward exposes the troubling inequality at the heart of our justice system - UK News

  21. The mitigation factors of “troubled life” and of “abuse by a former partner” don’t add up. We’ve all had a “troubled life”. Moreover, from a relationship of being abused straight to a relationship where the abuse is dished out is a transition that requires further analysis before being taken for granted as a mitigating factor.

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    • Like the case of Bashir who stated a professional employment contract was on offer, with no evidence. I wonder if the judge has viewed any evidence of the previous “troubled life and abuse by former partner”?

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  22. Pingback: An Oxford medical student stabbed her boyfriend with a bread knife. So why is she not going to prison? – Try not to lick it

  23. You write, in referring back to the Bashir case, that ‘the judge took the time to carefully explain his earlier, misreported remarks, no-one listened and wrapped themselves up in a cocoon of impervious self-righteousness’.

    However the fundamental of the Bashir case always seemed to me that he had hit hit wife with a cricket bat and forced her to drink bleach and that the judge was seriously minded not to imprison him nonetheless if he had the offer of a professional cricketing contract. That seems to have been unchallenged throughout. People were outraged that a man might be treated leniently despite such a vile offence on the grounds that he was a jolly good batsman.

    A motivation for my own dismay in such cases is that there seems to be no counterbalance towards justice for the victim. For instance, I accept that sending someone with a good job offer to prison will cost the public purse a lot of money whilst the good job is much more likely to be reforming than prison is. But what of the person who has been stabbed or burned with acid? If the court could stipulate very substantial compensation proportionate to the offender’s ‘good job offer’ then the sentence would seem to many more equitable: let the offender pay the victim 30% of their good salary for two years.

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  24. people “get off” (tagged , suspended , hours etc)with worse than this , sentencing is stupid , ….. the only mitigating circumstances in cases like this should be self defence or stabbing the person who abused/is abusing you to prevent further abuse . neither apply here so lock her ,and others who do the same as her, up. attacking someone who has done nothing to you for no good reason deserves no mitigation whatever their background may be .

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  25. Pingback: The Bread Knife of Legal Reasoning | Lawyer Watch

  26. She won’t go to a squalid prison if she’s given a suspended custodial sentence. That would be fair. I don’t care about all the legal wrangling behind it; she shouldn’t escape the punishment any other citizen would get just because she’s abnormally smart. Is there a precedent of a male in a equivalent position being treated similarly?

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  27. She won’t go to a squalid prison if she’s given a suspended custodial sentence. That would be fair. I don’t care about all the legal wrangling behind it; she shouldn’t escape the punishment any other citizen would get just because she’s abnormally smart. Is there a precedent of a male in a equivalent position being treated similarly?

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Thanks for a very interesting post (as they all are). A couple of points occur to me:

    1) Here in Scotland, for any job working with children or vulnerable persons I must agree to a criminal records check. (In my case, it was to volunteer with the Witness Service in local courts.) There must be similar arrangements in other parts of the U.K. I can’t imagine that any surgical job anywhere in the UK would not have, at a minimum, the same requirements for checks. As another commenter has suggested, she will never be free of this conviction when applying for a post.
    2) On the 1861 Act point about a minor skin break being treated as seriously as GBH, could this reflect the medical treatment of the times – anything that breaks the skin leads to infection, sepsis, etc. and is likely to have a great impact on the victim? Germ theory was not fully accepted, Semmelweis was being ignored, Lister hadn’t started surgical infection control, etc. Perhaps this part of the law now needs amended in the light of medical advances?

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  29. If a man had as “a one off offence” stabbed his girlfriend (or boyfriend for that matter), punched her in the face, and threw glass at her, all while drunk AND on drugs (another offence entirely), you could almost guarantee that not only would he see jail time, but the story would be plastered over many front pages, demonizing him for life.

    This farce seems to stem from a multitude of cliché factors:
    She’s a woman,
    She’s white,
    She’s rich,
    She’s attractive,
    She has “promising career aspects”.

    Now if the same offence were brought to court for a black man, not lucky enough to talented via genetics nor inheritance, even with a comparable history to hers, what would you expect the verdict to be? Food for thought.

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  30. Do the future patients of MS Woodward have the right to know the underlying character of their doctor?

    Surely a history of proven drug use and candidate aggressive behaviour is something medical insurers should be informed of. Would MS Woodward be able to get affordable medical insurance then?

    I don’t see that deterrent for others work suck a damp squib of a sentence

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  31. A slight aside, but it is worth noting that doctors and aspiring doctors must follow not only a legal code but also a professional one. This lady will require a general medical council (gmc) fitness to practice meeting before she could be considered to continue her course. Regardless of her sentence, with such offences it is entirely possibly that the gmc would not consider her fit to practice, thereby halting her career anyway.

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  32. You say “a case of domestic violence” in your second paragraph. I don;t think there’s any evidence to link the victim here with domestic violence

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  33. Pingback: A note on blogging – why I write | The Secret Barrister

  34. Regardless of the sentence she is eventually given, a crime that involves violence and substance misuse is looked on very dimly by the gmc. They are responsible for saying whether she can actually practice as a doctor and with a criminal conviction she is likely to face a delay from being entered on the register when she qualifies plus some restrictions being put on her practice in the future. They tend to take a harsher line than the courts because they feel it is their role to ensure that the public has complete faith in the profession as a whole.

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  35. >we may be about to go through it all again.
    But we are not going through it all again. In contrast to the Bashir case Diane Abbott and Harriet Harman have not “traversed the airwaves,” the domestic violence organisations are silent, and all mainstream reports and columns have been sympathetic to Woodward. Indignation is to be found only amongst the nameless masses of the blogosphere. The reason for this inconsistency, of course, is that Woodward is female.
    (Of course whether the criminal courts are more lenient towards defendants who are female is another matter entirely. But for the record my prediction is that in this case the judge’s leniency will stretch so far that Woodward will not receive even a suspended prison sentence.)

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  36. There are many cases that appear before the courts where a merciful judge passes a sentence that some might describe as over lenient. But the majority of these are unreported – because the press are not interested in the lives of your average Tesco cashier (as mentioned in the comments above).
    Lavinia Woodward has paid an extra penalty in the extensive and hostile media coverage and commentary in all the Uk papers, and Italian ones too. Photographs of her culled from various sources have been extensively used so she will be recognised wherever she goes now – for a very long time after her sentence is over and done with I guess. So her wealth and privilege carry a burden as well as an alleged benefit. I think for a young woman, only 24, she now has a lot to deal with..
    As for the leniency of the sentence, the judge would have had access to a wide range of material and expert argument, most of which has gone entirely unreported. In the context of this particular case the sentence – which has not been finalised yet, of course – may be entirely reasonable

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  37. Anyone who has not read the judgement or seriously considered SB’s post above has no legitimate right to claim that Woodward was in any way at an advantage because of her wealth or social status. Where is the evidence that that is true? (At least in the context of the sentence she received)

    You are intellectually lazy if u make such claims and misogynistic to think that people are more sympathetic to her because she is a woman.
    Additionally, no matter how she is represented in the media it has absolutely no bearing on the sentence she was given. So stop bringing up irrelevant nonsense.

    Ur moral outrage is better saved for other situations. Like, for example, in the way the legal system handles cases of domestic violence.

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  38. Also where is the evidence Ms Woodward has drug/alcohol addiction issues? The Guardian only states that the fight was ‘drug and alcohol fuelled.’

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  39. sorry my mistake. Her lawyer says she struggled with drug addiction, but I’m not sure that means she still at this present day struggles with drug addiction

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  40. Also there seems to be big differences between the Woodward case and the Bashir case, which accounts for the moral outrage at the lenient sentence given to Bashir expressed by members of the public. However, that does not mean that there aren’t people who (rightly or wrong) think Woodward was treated too leniently.
    But the difference between the Woodward case and Bashir case means any claims of hypocrisy about expressing moral outrage about Bashir and not as much moral outrage about Woodward is completely erroneous and absurd.
    Just because people think Woodward’s sentence was fine given her circumstances does not necessarily mean they think her offence isn’t serious.

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  41. I was keen to see the entire transcript of the judge’s remarks. If someone is a first time offender and the offense is out of character, then they can escape a prison sentence purely on that basis. But that’s mundane and won’t sell many papers. The judge may, in addition to relying on that central argument, have elaborated on the harm caused by a prison sentence, which is a fair thing for him to remark on. What the media may have done is exploit our tendency to read causality into two connected events. So the judge doesn’t throw her in the slammer (because it’s her first offense and out of character) AND he says jailing her would damage her bright career, and the media creates a fakes story which says “he didn’t jail her BECAUSE it would damage her bright career.”

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    • Doesn’t it still remain that a disproportionate number of offenders from dissimilar backgrounds receive jail sentences for similar first time offences ?

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      • Wassup. Thanks for replying. I don’t know if that is the case or not. I haven’t seen many statistics. I think deprivation generally is coincident with crime or causes it (who knows) and vice versa prosperity is coincident with or causes less criminality. And the crimes perpetrated by the privileged tend to be of a different nature (eg embezzlement) from those perpetrated by the deprived (eg break ins). So I suspect the body of like for like comparisons will be small.

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  42. Perhaps she heard about the hippocratic oath and thought they said hypocrite. Still, I can’t think of a more suitable vocation for this woman than something that involves knives and the incapacitated.

    I believe that once upon a time judges would lock people up, not just as a punishment, but to protect other members of society. Was that actually a thing or did I dream it?

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    • That is the most stupid thing I have ever heard. If you don’t have anything useful or valid to say, i suggest you shut up. Firstly, yes, people can be locked up to protect other members of society, that is within the judge’s power to do so if appropriate and within the legal parameters. Secondly, there is no proof to suggest that Ms Woodward is a threat to other members of society e.g. no history of domestic violence, of attacking people (the butterknife attack was very likely a one off incident, LIKE THE JUDGE STATED U IDIOT) and besides, she can be subject to a restraining order, so keeping her imprisoned is unnecessary. And before you say if she was subject to a restraining order she won’t abide by it unless you have concrete grounds to believe this, I suggest that is not a valid point to make.

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    • And besides, the sentenced has been DEFERRED, so there’s no fricking absolute guarantee that she will avoid prison time. AND U IDIOT, she hasn’t take the Hippocratic oath because she is a med STUDENT.

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    • You are just spewing disgusting hatred and vitriol about a person whom you know zilch all about. Your sanctimonious attitude is sickening.

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      • If you’ve quite finished with your petulance… What penalty do you think would be suitable for a boyfriend who stabbed you or any other vulnerable woman (is there any other kind?)?

        To those here who are legally trained, I’m confused about alcohol and drugs in sentencing. Their abuse or influence at the time of the crime is usually listed as an aggravating factor. Why is the very same, as in this case, presented as mitigation​?

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  43. Pingback: An Oxford medical student stabbed her boyfriend with a bread knife. So why is she not going to prison? — The Secret Barrister – disabledsingleparent

  44. Pingback: UPDATE: An Oxford medical student stabbed her boyfriend with a bread knife. So why did she not go to prison? | The Secret Barrister

  45. It is no wonder that people lose faith in the justice system.
    She should have her time in prison and it is one rule for the rich and one for the poor!

    Like

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