Male domestic abuse warning after student who stabbed boyfriend spared jail
A judge's decision to spare Oxford University student Lavinia Woodward from going straight to prison for stabbing her boyfriend risks putting male victims of domestic abuse off coming forward, a campaigner has warned.
Mark Brooks, chairman of the ManKind Initiative, branded Woodward's sentence "unfair" and said she would have been expected to go to prison had she been a man.
Judge Ian Pringle QC imposed a 10-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, on the 24-year-old at Oxford Crown Court on Monday.
Mr Brooks said there was already a problem with male victims of crime not seeking justice because "they fear that society won't take them seriously".
"When male victims see this case, to them it will actually enforce that view, that male victims are not taken as seriously as female victims," he told the Press Association.
Woodward, a student at the university's Christ Church college, was to be sentenced earlier this year after admitting unlawful wounding, but the judge controversially gave her four months to prove herself and stay out of trouble.
The court heard Woodward was later admitted to a clinic for treatment for addictions to class-A drugs and alcohol, and an eating disorder.
Passing sentence, Judge Pringle said Woodward's case had "many mitigating features", however, the decision to spare her from going straight to prison has provoked further controversy.
Mr Brooks said of the sentence: "It is unfair because we would expect a man who committed this type of crime to go to prison and rightly so, so the question has to be asked why it wasn't the case here."
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 with a bread knife.
Earlier this month the Crown Prosecution Service announced plans to encourage male victims of sexual and domestic abuse to come forward.
Director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders said she hoped a "public statement"' showing the CPS' commitment would "create an environment that gives male victims increased confidence to come forward and get the justice they deserve".
Mr Brooks said: "The judiciary should be taking up the mantle thrown down by the CPS three weeks ago and ensuring that when they do make their judgments they should always ensure that they are applying the same mindset as they would for victims of all genders."
He urged the judge to clarify that Woodward's gender "had no bearing on the sentence she was given".
James Sturman QC, defending Woodward, told the court on Monday that she was a "different woman" since she last appeared and would be returning to a clinic for continued treatment.
Christ Church dean the Very Rev Professor Martyn Percy, said Woodward was 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," Mr Percy said.