Medical student 'too bright' for prison is spared jail for stabbing boyfriend with bread knife
A promising Oxford University medical student who stabbed her boyfriend during a drunken assault with a bread knife has avoided prison - meaning she could return to her studies.
Lavinia Woodward, (24), received a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, for stabbing her then partner with the knife.
Woodward, a student at the university's Christ Church college, was to be sentenced earlier this year after admitting unlawful wounding, but the judge gave her four months to prove herself and stay out of trouble.
Oxford Crown Court heard Woodward was later admitted to a clinic for treatment for addictions to Class A drugs and alcohol, and an eating disorder.
The stabbing happened on December 30 last year when Woodward's partner, a Cambridge University student, visited her in Oxford.
He realised she had been drinking and when Woodward discovered he had contacted her mother she became "extremely angry" and began throwing objects, before stabbing him in the leg.
At a previous hearing Woodward, of Christ Church, St Aldate's, Oxford, pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding.
James Sturman QC, defending, said she was a "different woman" since she last appeared in court and would be returning to a clinic for continued treatment.
"What she has done since May is do everything Your Honour asked of her," he said.
"In my respectful submission the words you used on the last occasion gave her a great motivation to behave herself, keep out of trouble and stay off the drugs.
"The tone in May was to see whether she could prove herself, you could take a truly exceptional course.
"It's not truly exceptional because she goes to Oxford, it's because she has gone into rehab."
Mr Sturman criticised the media coverage of Miss Woodward's case, saying she had been photographed while living with her family in Milan and fired from a retail job after being recognised.
"After the last occasion it was said she was too clever to go to prison. I have no idea where this came from," he said.
"She can't even go into a nightclub in London because she will be recognisable.
"She is not being treated leniently because she is intelligent - she is a very vulnerable, damaged young woman who will do all she can to put it right.
"She will be going back into rehab to get over the trauma and get over the issues that bedevilled her since she was nine years old."
Mr Sturman said Woodward remained in a "dilemma" as to her future career but had already had articles published in medical journals.
She could return to Oxford, take an academic research job or begin a PhD at another university.
"The university remains supportive. Lavinia knows that returning this year would be impossible with the press interest.
"If she was coming back to Oxford everybody would know all about it," he said.
Passing sentence, Judge Ian Pringle QC said: "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."
He added: "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."
College dean the Very Rev Professor Martyn Percy, said afterwards: "We are concerned for the welfare of all our students and it is clearly a matter of regret and sadness when any young person blights a promising career by committing a crime.
"Ms Woodward is not currently studying at Oxford, having voluntarily suspended her medical studies.
"The question of her future will now be decided by the university, which has procedures in place when a student is the subject of a criminal conviction."