Another day, another aberration of justice. Lavinia Clementine Woodward, now infamous for being a lying, cocaine-addicted, domestically violent, short-fused, belligerent, wannabe-heart-surgeon, has managed to evade jail. Some have speculated that her looks and her class played a role in the leniency of her sentence and they’re not entirely wrong.
One my personal site and YouTube, I run a series called ‘Women Who Should Be In Prison’ and, needless to say, I have been looking forward to this case for quite a while and, unsurprisingly, I was severely irritated and disappointed by the predictable outcome.
Take, for example, the non-list of ‘aggravating features’ in HHJ Ian Pringle QC’s sentencing remarks, reproduced here in its entirety:
“Next, I need to decide whether there are any aggravating features which raise the seriousness of this matter and whether there are any mitigating features which reduce the seriousness. There are certainly no statutory aggravating features. [Emphasis mine.] However, there is one non-statutory aggravating feature, namely that at the time of the offence you were heavily under the influence of alcohol. Whilst that in part was as a result of a previous and highly damaging relationship, you were old enough and intelligent enough to realise that over-indulgence would severely affect your behaviour.”
Evidently, Pringle needs updating on statutory aggravating factors because here’s a few that could have been cited:
Factors indicating higher culpability:
- an intention to commit more serious harm than actually resulted from the offence;
- commission of an offence while under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- use of a weapon to frighten or injure victim;
- deliberate and gratuitous violence or damage to property, over and above what is needed to carry out the offence;
Point 1 is covered by the fact she had already thrown a laptop, glass and jam-jar at her victim before reaching for a bread knife and attempting to hack at and stab him several times. Point 2 is covered by the fact that she was drunk at the time of the assault. Point 3 is covered by the fact that all she used were weapons. Point 4 is covered by the fact that they were arguing about her drunkenness, her victim was attempting to contact her mother when she felt it necessary to launch her gratuitous assault.
Her drug and alcohol abuse is historic and, bizarrely, despite being fleetingly mentioned in the aggravating features cited above, it is also mentioned in the mitigating features in the sentencing remarks: “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. [Emphasis mine]” One would be inclined to argue that someone with a personality disorder who has a history of drug-alcohol dependence should, when being sentenced for having a proclivity for violence, have these factors considered as a negative yet, Pringle appears not to have done that.
Another notable allegation against Woodward is she lied about having cancer for four months in order to hide her drug use. When her boyfriend confronted her on this, she claimed the charade was to disguise mental health problems. Her drug problem was so bad that “she would often just leave the room then return and behave manically. Sometimes she would start taking cocaine at 10am just to get her through the day”.
What I find intriguing about the rehabilitation comments in the sentencing remarks is how hollow it all sounds, especially when considering how Woodward spent her summer over in Milan in her family’s £1.5million villa and she moaned about how she cannot go out clubbing in London without being recognised. I do not doubt that she received counselling for her issues but, I certainly do question her commitment to her rehabilitation.
Those not intimately informed of the case would innocently agree with Pringle when he called this incident a “one-off”, they would believe she entered the court-room with a near-clean slate, aside from the breadknife attack and drug use. This is not the case.
As even recognised by HHJ Ian Pringle QC himself, there were two previous counts of assault (on 25 November and 12 December 2016 – the infamous attack occurred 30 December 2016) yet, these were ordered to lie on the court file. In non-legal-speak that means the offence is all but ignored, there is no verdict, without the leave of the Crown Court or the Court of Appeal. Without even a shred of self-awareness, Pringle later remarks: “Principally, at the age of 24 you have no previous convictions of any nature whatsoever.” Whilst this is technically true, there would be extra convictions and offences to consider had he accepted the previous two assaults. It’s amazing what being pretty and female gets you.
Allegedly, in one of the attacks, she throttled her boyfriend to such an extent that he fell unconscious. Woodward denied these two attacks occurred, which was a factor in them being ordered to lie on the court file. Yes, that’s right, if you are accused of domestically abusing your partner and choking them to the point they pass out, you can have that charged ignored if you deny it. And to think, Women’s Aid worries accusations from women are not being taken seriously. Ha!
Additional stories have also arisen, allegations she attacked a fellow university student in an unprovoked assault, in a separate incident she allegedly made violent threats to another university student when he tried to help her overcome her drug abuse – these threats were passed on to the police, other students have claimed to be intimidated by the unsavoury characters she had frequenting her room to sell her drugs. One student who got on the wrong side of her claimed she had a “very short fuse”. The Proctors’ Office at Oxford were aware “lots of people” had problems with her. Ms Woodward has a reputation for being a nuisance and a threat.
Considering the above, her historic and repeated domestic violence, her aggression & violence to fellow university students, her chronic drug use, her lying about cancer and her manipulative behaviour, I find it absolutely staggering that Pringle could say that a prison sentence would be “too severe”, arguing these are the actions of an “extraordinary able young lady” and this only occurred because she has had a “troubled life”. Sometimes I find myself questioning the sanity and cognitive validity of some of these so-called judges.
I’m inclined to question just exactly how troubled Ms Woodward’s life actually has been. She lived and grew up in Sirtori, Italy, with her multi-millionaire parents, living in their £1million villa. She attended The British School of Milan, formerly known as The Sir James Henderson School, where fees can hit £16,000 per year. She frequently travels the world on luxurious holidays, shops in high-end clothing stores (she would attend university with a £1,000 Chanel bag). She attended Oxford, scoring the highest in the pre-clinical tests and her name appears on multiple papers in prestigious academic journals. So tell me, because perhaps I’ve missed something, just exactly how was her life troubled?
The ‘troubled’ life of a jet-setting girl
Now, one could retort by hurling at me the domestic abuse she allegedly suffered yet, that is the one detail in this case I am can find the least information about. In Pringle’s sentencing remarks, he simply states “Sadly, you were still suffering from the effects of a very damaging previous relationship with another who had introduced you to class a drugs” – the exact details of how the relationship was damaging, aside from the introduction to Class A drugs, is not specified. The only damage that is referenced is the drug-use; violence and abuse are not mentioned. Thus, to conclude Ms Woodward is a victim of domestic abuse from a previous relationship is to clutch at straws.
Pringle also said he did not want to send her to prison because he didn’t want to ruin her potential career. Forgive me but, surely her career has been ruined already? Any employer with half a brain would search her name and find countless articles, much like this one, detailing the horrific things she has done. Prison or not, her name is out there, her crimes are public knowledge. Whether she spends time behind bars is frankly irrelevant to her career. Thus, it is silly to argue she should be spared jail on the grounds her career can be salvaged.
Not only is the lack of prison time disturbing but, the lack of charges. Woodward was sentenced for “unlawful (malicious) wounding” contrary to section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. This is irrefutable; how Pringle arrived at the sentence he gave for this offence is detailed here.
Yet, according to section 18 of the same Act, Woodward should have also been facing a maximum penalty of imprisonment for life due to her intent to cause grievous bodily harm with a deliberately selected offensive weapon. Had the two previous assaults (dated 25 November and 12 December) been included, Woodward could have been charged with section 21 of the same Act because she choked her boyfriend to the point of unconsciousness.
She also breached her bail conditions by contacting her victim which in itself is not itself a criminal offence but, can result in an arrest warrant being issued. No such warrant was because we wouldn’t want her pristine reputation to be tarnished now, would we?
Although we have to be honest, she was never going to prison. Currently, women account for 4.5% of those in prison and this is caused by the fact that, per 1,000 offenders of each sex, 3.3 times as many men are sentenced than women per year, 3.4 times as many men are sent to prison than women, men receive on average a sentence which is 64% longer than for women and women serve less of their sentence than men (48% versus 53%, respectively). The cards were stacked in Ms Woodward’s favour long before she set foot in the courtroom.
And, to make matters worse, the sentence cannot be reviewed; that’s it, it’s final. Despite complaints to the Attorney-General the sentence was too lenient, Woodward will not face an appeal. This is because unlawful (malicious) wounding is not covered by the unduly lenient sentencing scheme. Her previous attacks cannot be reviewed either. Her historic and chronic drug-fuelled violence has gone near unpunished.
However, there was a beacon of light, a glimmer of hope: HHJ Ian Pringle QC was put under investigation, the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office had confirmed it had received several complaints against the judge, saying “any findings of misconduct against judicial office holders are published on the JCIO website at the conclusion of investigations”, according to The Independent.
The watchdog can “only deal with complaints about a judicial office-holder’s personal conduct – it cannot deal with complaints about judicial decisions or about case management”, according to its website. I do not know what the complaints were about, the website is not very clear but, unfortunately, they were dismissed on the grounds they did not relate to the judge’s personal conduct.
Either way, the Law is a joke.