Andre Walker says Oxford University student Lavinia Woodward who, found guilty stabbed her boyfriend, avoided a custodial sentence by manipulating and making a mockery of our judicial system.
Yesterday, the British media are howling with disbelief over the case of an Oxford University student who stabbed her boyfriend but was spared prison. The judge in the case of Lavinia Woodward, 24, is widely and wrongly quoted as saying she was “too clever” for prison.
As we try to work out the inexplicably lenient decision perhaps it is time to consider that was she wasn’t too clever, but rather, too posh for prison.
Woodward first hit the headlines in May after she was told that she would not be immediately jailed because it might harm her promising career as a trainee surgeon. That was despite her admission that she was addicted to hard drugs and alcohol, factors that are said to have contributed to her crazed attack.Ms Woodward offered a very compelling sob story about how she had been in an abusive relationship, and how she had dealt with it through drugs. Her legal team was able to point to her genuine contrition for the offence and the fact she had no previous criminal convictions.They also offered to put her into rehab and suggested that, despite her intellect, she was immature for her age. All of this left Judge Pringle convinced that “there are many mitigating features” in the case.
Pringle’s position has clearly been unfairly represented, he did not suggest anyone with a high intellect should be spared prison. But in some ways that makes it worse, he actually let her walk free because she’d ensured her mitigation ticked every box.
How hard is it really to argue you are immature? How hard is it to blame a previous partner? How hard is it to go into rehab after being caught on drugs? How hard is it to show remorse? And would her previous good behaviour lessen her ex-boyfriend’s stab wound?
And here’s an even bigger question: could a working-class girl with no money really have walked free in this case? I suspect not.I think an unemployed kid from an estate in South London would have gone to prison for launching an MDMA fuelled knife attack at Christ Church College, Oxford.
She’d be left to rot, and rightly so.
Part of the reason for my theory on this was my own experience of the London riots in 2011. From the 6th to 11th August 2011 there was a huge wave of disorder, looting and rioting in English cities. It was initially sparked by the killing of Mark Duggan by the Police, but it quickly flew out of control… as these things often do.
When the dust finally settled, two thousand people were arrested, many of whom went to court.
They were treated harshly, in one case a 23-year-old was sent to prison for six months after being convicted of an “opportunistic crime”, namely stealing some water bottles worth $4.
But not everyone got thrown in prison for minor crimes, there were some notable exceptions. I was in court to see The Guardian writer, Bryn Phillips, avoid prison for two counts of violent disorder and one charge of burglary.
He avoided the fate of the largely penniless black and Asian rioters who were also in court that day after his (very pricey) legal team pointed out he hadn’t taken his medication on the day he helped burn down and loot a shop. He also presented a letter from a member of the House of Lords saying he was generally a good bloke. Neither of which seemed very significant to me, but the court thought differently.
And so it seems to be, these ‘mitigating factors’ appear to be nothing more than an opportunity for those with smart lawyers to rid themselves of the usual punishments for their crimes. They appear to be entirely ‘bog standard’ tribulations of life, presented in a way that appeals to middle-class judges.
It is not fair, and it is not justice.
Lavinia Woodward wasn’t too clever for prison, she was too posh and she was too savvy. She knew what to say and she said it. That’s why she isn’t in prison right now, and her time walking the streets serves as a mockery of our legal system as a result.