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Anorak | Lavinia Woodward’s mitigating factors: she’s not black, male and poor

Lavinia Woodward’s mitigating factors: she’s not black, male and poor

by | 26th, September 2017

Lavinia Woodward, 24, has been in court for assaulting her boyfriend – she stabbed him in the leg with a bread knife after throwing a laptop, a glass and a jam jar at him. Should she go to prison? “No!” rules judge Ian Pringle, who reasons that because Woodward is bright and wants to be surgeon, a stint in choky might damage her career. You and anyone sane might baulk at being treated by a surgeon with a history of stabbing people with kitchen equipment – taking work home with her? – who suffers from an emotionally-unstable personality disorder, a severe eating disorder, and alcohol and drug addiction.

Might it be that the victim, one Thomas Fairclough, a Cambridge graduate Woodward had met on the dating app Tinder, took one for the team?

 

lavinia woodward

She’s presented as someone we should envy – the blonde ‘toff’ laughing in the face of justice. That’s ugly. She seems far from happy.

 

But Woodward remains at large. Judge Pringle thinks she’s possessed of an “extraordinary talent”. Dwayne from the council estate can go to prison for his crimes, on account of being normal or even blow par; but Lavinia was really terribly good at school so when she gets into drugs and knife crime, it’s all a dreadful waste of potential that society cannot bear. So for pleading guilty to unlawful wounding she receives a sentence of 10 months’ imprisonment suspended for 18 months. Well, so goes the tabloid narrative.

Pringle is sympathetic to Lavinia, telling the court: “It seems to me that if this was a one-off, a complete one-off, to prevent this extraordinarily able young lady from following her long-held desire to enter the profession she wishes to would be a sentence which would be too severe. 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.”

Judge Pringle seems to believe that because sentencing aims to protect society and help to rehabilitate the offender, jailing a bright student would be counterproductive.

Pringle has more to say to the young woman at Oxford Crown Court:

“There are many mitigating features in your case. Principally, at the age of 24 you have no previous convictions of any nature whatsoever. Secondly, I find that you were genuinely remorseful following this event and, indeed, it was against your bail conditions, you contacted your partner to fully confess your guilt and your deep sorrow for what happened.

“Thirdly, whilst you are a clearly highly-intelligent individual, you had an immaturity about you which was not commensurate for someone of your age. Fourthly, as the reports from the experts make clear, you suffer from an emotionally-unstable personality disorder, a severe eating disorder and alcohol drug dependence.

“Finally, and most significantly, 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. In particular, you have demonstrated to me since I adjourned this matter in May a strong and unwavering determination to do so despite the enormous pressure under which you were put and which has been referred to me by your counsel.”

 

The judge never said she was “too clever” for prison. Only newspapers did.

 

So the “highly intelligent” young woman – someone you might suppose can understand the weight of her crime better than most – doesn’t go to jail. Which appears to be a lesson for us all: don’t be poor, black and male. But it’s not that simple.

Lavinia Woodward should not be envied. She appears to be struggling and have suffered. And the media exposure must be challenging, especially to someone who appears unhappy in her own skin. It’ll be interesting to see what occurs when someone less bright and less blonde than Lavinia Woodward charged with similar crimes stands before the judge – and if the tabloids report their trials at all, let alone deem the cases worthy of front-page news. We might not like the story of the “toff” who “escaped” prison for “being too clever”, but that might be something to do with our own prejudices.

That’s another lesson for us all: if you want to be on the tabloids’ front pages and ride high on the news cycle: do be blonde, female and young.

 



Posted: 26th, September 2017 | In: Key Posts, News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink