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University student spared jail due to extraordinary talent

Oxford student Lavinia Woodward could be spared jail because it could damage her career. Picture: FacebookSource:Supplied
Oxford student Lavinia Woodward could be spared jail because it could damage her career. Picture: FacebookSource:Supplied

AN Oxford University student dubbed "too clever to go to prison" has walked free for stabbing her ex-boyfriend in a drug-fuelled frenzy - but moaned she can't go clubbing without being recognised.

The Sun reports aspiring heart surgeon Lavinia Woodward, 24, ran out of court with a big smile on her face today after being handed a suspended sentence.

She appeared in the glass-panelled dock before the judge at Oxford Crown Court wearing a black suit and white blouse.

Flanked by a female security guard, she wept and dabbed her eyes with a tissue as the judge sentenced her to ten months in prison, suspended for 18 months.

James Sturman QC, defending, urged the judge to give Woodward a conditional discharge due to her "unique vulnerability, remorse and good character".

He said: "She can't even go to a nightclub in London, she's so recognisable."

Judge Ian Pringle QC previously said a custodial sentence may be "too severe" because it could ruin Woodward's promising medical career, after she admitted unlawfully wounding Cambridge University student Thomas Fairclough.

The judge said today: "Fortunately the wounds your partner received were relatively minor. The two one-centimetre cuts to the fingers were treated at the scene and the cut to the leg was closed with three stitches.

"At the time of the offence you were heavily under the influence of alcohol. You were old enough and intelligent enough to realise that over-indulgence would severely affect your behaviour.

"You have no previous convictions of any nature whatsoever. I find that you were genuinely remorseful following this event.

"Most significantly, you have demonstrated over the last nine months that you are determined to rid yourself of your addiction and have undergone extensive treatment and counselling.

"You have demonstrated to me a strong, unwavering determination to do so despite enormous pressure under which you were put."

The court heard Woodward broke her bail conditions by contacting Mr Fairclough to apologise for stabbing him, but the judge praised her for doing this.

He also commended her "strong and unwavering determination" to address her issues in the face of enormous public pressure.

When the judge told her she was free to go, Woodward mouthed the words "thank you" and hurried from dock in floods of tears.

Her family told her to keep her "head held high" as she left court, making no comment.

She grinned as she ran out the courtroom to celebrate her freedom.

The court heard she attempted suicide in police custody on the night of her arrest and was fired from a job she took at a shop in London 48 hours after being hired when she was recognised by a customer.

While on bail she spent four weeks in a secure drug rehabilitation centre and doctors reports confirm she has stayed clean.

Woodward stabbed Thomas Fairclough in the leg with a breadknife and hurled a laptop, glass and jam jar at him when they argued on September 30.

Prosecutor Cathy Olliver said Woodward met her ex, a Cambridge PhD student, on Tinder.

She said on September 30, the night of the attack, they rowed and Woodward's behaviour "deteriorated".

When Fairclough threatened to contact Woodward's mum on Skype the 24-year-old attacked him.

Defending, James Sturman QC said his client's dreams of becoming a surgeon were "almost impossible" as her conviction would have to disclosed.

At a hearing in May, the judge hinted he would show leniency to the "extraordinary able young lady" because her actions appeared to be "a complete one-off".

At the time, Judge Ian Pringle told Woodward: "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 [medical] profession she wishes to would be a sentence which would be too severe."

He delayed sentence as he did not want to ruin her chances of a successful career.

Woodward was slapped with a restraining order and told to stay drug-free and not to reoffend before returning to court for sentencing today.

Topics:  editors picks jail judge lavinia woodward oxford university sentence

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