LONDON – A British judge has deferred sentencing an Oxford University student who pleaded guilty to stabbing her boyfriend in a drug-fueled argument, after remarking that the "extraordinary" woman might not be able to become a surgeon.
Oxford Crown Court Judge Ian Pringle last week put off sentencing 24-year-old Lavinia Woodward until September. He suggested he might not give her a custodial sentence.
"It seems to me that if this was a one-off, a complete one-off, to prevent this extraordinary, able young lady from not following her long-held desire to enter the profession she wishes to, would be a sentence which would be too severe, " the Oxford Times reported Pringle as saying.
The case caused a stir among Britain's newspapers, with the Sun tabloid reporting that Woodward was "too brainy to be jailed."
Woodward's attorney Jim Sturman, declined comment.
However, Francis FitzGibbon, the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said Wednesday that a number of mitigating circumstances likely contributed to Pringle's decision to give her a chance to address her drug addiction before sentencing. Besides showing remorse, Woodward pleaded guilty, had no previous convictions and was involved in a single incident.
"To seize upon a single throwaway remark by the judge is probably unfair because it doesn't represent the process," he said.
Woodward pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding, a charge which carries a maximum of five years in prison and is much less serious than a charge that involves intent. The guilty plea automatically reduced the potential sentence and the mitigating factors also would go toward reducing the potential for jail time.
"She's already got a great deal of mitigation," FitzGibbon said. "Those factors are not limited to people going to Oxford University."