Laura Perrins: This girl can wield a knife but does that make her a heart surgeon?

Just how rotten is the culture and what is going on with the students? On close reading of the case of Lavina Woodward suggests that all is not what it should be in the Dreaming Spires.

Press reports about the ‘extraordinary medical student and aspiring heart surgeon’ who stabbed her boyfriend with a kitchen knife caused outrage because of the suggestion that she may not go to jail. In truth, legally, this is not that surprising as explained here.

However, The Times report hinted at the culture that exists at the university.

“Lavinia Woodward, 24, is an aspiring heart surgeon who met the man, a Cambridge graduate, on Tinder. During a drink and drug-fuelled row at Christ Church, Oxford, last September, she punched him and swiped at him with a bread knife. She then stabbed him in the leg before hurling a laptop, a glass and a jam jar at him.”

In terms of what happened on the night of the assault: “Cathy Olliver, for the prosecution, said that Woodward had met the man on Tinder and that by the time of the attack on September 30 her behaviour had deteriorated.

“The student’s boyfriend — who was not named in court because he is a victim of domestic violence — called Woodward’s mother on Skype. Woodward then punched him in the face before picking up a bread knife and stabbing him in the leg.”

Woodward’s defence barrister told the court, “Woodward had had a 'very troubled life' and had been abused by another former partner, adding that her crime had resulted from her addiction”. That addiction was to cocaine.

Now, before I really get started, I am not denying that we have all made youthful, stupid, mistakes in our time. I am not denying that university culture has and probably always will be saturated with drink, which can leave students vulnerable as well as encouraging them to do things they would not dream of doing if sober.

But can I just ask, what is going on with the medical students and more importantly those who are choosing them? This young woman, who I hope will rebuild her life, is surely not fit to be a heart surgeon. Perhaps she will be a talented doctor – I don’t know – but my understanding of heart surgery is that it is very high-pressured.

It is not just a question of whether you are an extraordinary talent and can churn out academic papers. This is a necessary but not sufficient requirement for the job. The most important requirement is that you are sober, have a steady hand, and can take the pressure day in day out, hours at time in theatre and for decades at a time.

Ms Woodward obviously had a serious cocaine habit and, as we have heard, has had ‘a very troubled life.’ My guess is her cocaine habit was used to alleviate the pressure of her degree. Is this pressure going to reduce when she qualifies? I doubt it.

Woodward met the victim on Tinder, who seems to have become her boyfriend. On the particular night he attempted to call Woodward’s mother on Skype – we are not told why – and she punched him the face, before picking him up a bread knife a stabbing in the leg. She then hurled a laptop, glass, and jam jar at him. It would be incredible to believe she could be a heart surgeon after this.

The judge in deferring sentence said: “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 profession she wishes to would be a sentence which would be too severe.”

It is not known if the judge was holding a bunch of roses and looking quite doe-eyed while making this statement. Anyway, such is the privilege of the cognitive elite. I can only assume that the not-so-extraordinary drug-addicted prostitutes can quietly make their way to Holloway prison.

Yet, there was still more evidence of students behaving badly. Within this report we are told that Woodward “previously dated Inigo Lapwood, an Oxford student who was temporarily banned from Christ Church after taking a flamethrower to a party.” As you do.

Lapwood is a vicar’s son (of course he is) and he is a philosophy and psychology student at Christ Church (of course he is) and was suspended after the flamethrower incident.

Perhaps I am being unfair in focusing on these two cases. Perhaps they are just unusual, but I am not sure. We’ve all had a few wild nights at university, but the flamethrowers and cocaine and drink fuelled rows that ended up with a stabbing are something new.

What makes the whole thing even more depressing is that this is the elite - these will be the folks running the country or saving our lives. We should not be surprised that this is what we get in a culture that values academic results and professional status over character and ethics. What a nightmare.

Laura Perrins

  • EUman remains

    Any reaction in The Guardian to this? I guess it will be brushed under the carpet, unlike the bloke who was initially freed because he plays cricket.

    • Colkitto03

      Or the working class footballer (recently found innocent) whose exceptional skills and burgeoning career counted for nothing when being sentenced.

    • hedgemagnet

      An apologetic and wishy-washy piece by Simon Jenkins with no comments, and bumped from their opening webpage

      • Groan

        Jenkins of course takes a “class” view but his contrasting case has another feature. The Durham Student was male.

        “Meanwhile, four months ago, a judge in less exalted Durham jailed a student with equally “glowing testimonials” for what was also accepted as a “single blemish”. He sexually assaulted a sleeping girl who admitted she was “seven out of 10 drunk” when she invited him back to her flat “to watch movies”. The judge ordered the young man instantly to prison, and put him “indefinitely” on a sex offender register. This would render him unemployable in a normal graduate job.”
        He’s clearly stuck in the past, today’s divide is very much a “gender” division. As the result of the Corston Report (women shouldn’t be jailed)the criminal justice system Jails males with abandon. With the result that the proportion of the prison population being female has never been smaller. Perhaps this generosity of spirit to female offenders is a good thing. It does show up the stark difference in treatment even more. As evidenced by Parliament for the much maligned Philip Davies.
        Of course there could be no more worthy “pedestal” than a female Oxbridge medical student with high ambitions. In the era of the Jane Austin the female “pedestal”, 20% of women were prisoners now 5%.
        How female virtue must have grown.

        • hedgemagnet

          I began listening to Shelagh Fogarty speaking with Vicky Pryce (now a self-appointed expert criminologist) yesterday on LBC, about not giving women custodial sentences. There was no mention between the pair of them about how sending vulnerable men to prison might similarly affect the rest of lives – that is before I had to switch over in case i totalled my radio.

    • Birtles

      To be fair, the alleged cricketer (he was lying about a non-existent contract) was also a Pakistani Muslim. I do hope you’re not a ‘ra cist, fa scist, Na zi, Xenophobe Islamaphobe, CIS gendered…….

  • Aaron D Highside

    Lucky for the ‘Snowflake’ generation that they have the ‘Outraged’ generation to watch their backs.

  • Birtles

    Had this young woman been a nasty little ‘prole’, she would be going straight to jail. Further, had she been a young man, the domestic violence brigade would (probably rightly) demanding the longest penalty possible. She is already a criminal, she buys and uses cocaine. She is an extremely violent person. The BMA, Christ Church, and Oxford itself, need to show her the door.

    • choccycobnobs

      “…nasty little ‘prole’, she would be going straight to jail”, Not necessarily. I am unable to find female that seems to fit your “nasty little prole” standard. She had some 20 previous convictions (drunkenness, violence, anti social behaviour) before getting a short sentence.
      A Baroness Corston and those of her group seem to be rather keen to prevent women from going to prison at all. Hasn’t a women’s prison in London closed down completely? I believe that a woman’s prison in Scotland is also closing. Don’t magistrates have sentencing guidelines specifically for women?

      • Birtles

        Yes, I take your point. The gender imbalance when it comes to incarceration is quite pronounced. Were it a different imbalance then the much, much higher levels of male incarceration would be take as a sign of discrimination. Who is the woman with the 20 previous? Is it the woman who tried to knock the BBC journo off his bike?

      • Sargv

        > A Baroness Corston and those of her group seem to be rather keen to prevent women from going to prison at all.

        Which will mean that men will take judgement in their own hands when it comes to female offenders. More offenders will be able to avoid the punishment, but those who don’t will probably receive much, much harsher treatments.

        State is only allowed to act as a prosecutor on the promise that it will be fair. When this promise is broken, the violence will still be delivered by vigilantes, because every human being have a strong sense of injustice committed.

        • Manplant

          On the other hand just avoid women. Personally, I’m on strike because of my experience. I wouldn’t have a relationship in the UK. In fact I’m thinking of emigrating and starting a new life somewhere else where men are not persecuted because of their gender. It is simply too risky to have a relationship here.

      • Groan

        Yes it is official policy not to imprison women as they (unlike men it seems) find prison harsh. The Baroness is quite clear on this. She wanted all female Prison’s shut the previous Gov. took the view there would always be the need for a few Cells.

  • adambagpuss

    Wonder who mummy knows in the judiciary.
    ‘If it was a one-off’ ,says the judge. A ‘one-off’ cocaine addiction is that?

    • Little Black Censored

      I wondered how long we should have to wait before Daddy or Mummy were mentioned; mandatory in comments on Oxford and Cambridge news, and inevitable in the Daily Mail. Congratulations!

      • “inevitable in the Daily Mail.”

        Usually followed by the price of their house.

  • Busy Mum

    Who is choosing medical students?

    They choose themselves – I want to be a doctor, it is important for my self-esteem that I become a doctor, the patients don’t come into it. It’s all about my self-fulfilment.

    They are chosen by secondary schools – heads of sixth form and careers advisors – you are amazing, you must aspire, there is no reason at all why you shouldn’t reach the top. Or else, you are at a disadvantage because you are a woman/LGBTXYZ/non-white/poor and therefore you have a right to become a doctor to show that these characteristics are no hindrance to becoming a doctor.

    One of my daughters related to me how a head of year asked the class (Year 10 – 15 year olds)what they wanted to do when they finished school. One girl said she would like to be a veterinary nurse. The teacher said no, no, no, you must aspire higher – no reason why you can’t become a vet. The girl responded that she wasn’t academic enough to get on a vet course (she is correct). Don’t let that keep your aspirations low, said the teacher. Do you know how much a vet nurse earns? Yes, said the girl. And do you know how much a vet earns? Yes, said the girl. Well then, go for it, said the teacher.

    This despite the fact that the previous year, the most academic sixthformer – all A*s – who had spent every school holiday volunteering at stables, farms, vet practices etc failed to get a place.

    So, another 15 year old who feels as though she is not good enough and another teacher who will be telling the parents that it’s dreadful for young people nowadays being under so much ‘pressure’. Motes and beams. Scrap the whole concept of compulsory aspiration.

    • Labour_is_bunk

      A beacon of common sense as ever, BM.

      • Busy Mum

        Thank you. Common sense seems to be illegal nowadays!

    • Vera

      Having high aspiration is good – it got Posh Spice where she is today without any qualification that I know of. At my piss-poor grammar school in the 1950s, unless we were capable of getting an Oxbridge scholarship – maybe one girl a year – we were told to be teachers (primary school no degree needed then) or nurses (again no degree needed then). It wasn’t until after I’d left that I found that you could get a degree at other unis with just 2 ‘A’ levels which was doable for most of us.

      • Busy Mum

        And now they tell youngsters NOT to be teachers or nurses, even if that is what somebody aspires to. Besides which, it’s a ridiculous situation where everybody is told to just do what they want to do rather than to do what needs doing. Result – lots of unsatisfied people; not only because they cannot all be e.g. Posh Spice but also because nobody else wants to do the necessary chores they refuse to do themselves.

        • Vera

          There are people who have high aspirations and do attain them even though they failed exams at some stage . And of course wanting to become a doctor, vet, engineer, ballet dancer, etc., and actually achieving it takes far more than having aspirations.

          • Busy Mum

            But I can guarantee that no school would invite him in to talk to the pupils about his career.

            The problem is that schools impose aspirations, often totally unrealistic ones at that, on their pupils and are extremely ‘judgmental’ about the children’s own ideas; some jobs are ‘out’, some are ‘in’. If a fourteen-year old said that he wanted to be a road sweeper, he would be criticised for not being aspirational. I would say he should be applauded to the skies for being very brave.
            Children are too afraid of saying what they really want for fear of it not being the ‘correct’ answer. So girls are now saying they want to be engineers – not because they really want to but because they have been told to think they want to.
            And the hypocrisy is eye-watering. If a girl says she would like to take part in the Bake-Off, she is cheered for being aspirational. If a girl says she would like to ‘stay home and bake cookies’ (apologies to Hilary Clinton) she is howled down for not being aspirational. A boy would probably be cheered for both!

          • Sargv

            I wonder how many children are now guaranteed to face major disappointment with their lives in future when thy fail to deliver on those aspirations? “They tell us: you must have a career! But most of us ended up with jobs.”

            Also – an aspirational career advice from a TA, really? Note to myself: teach the kids to mercilessly mock anyone saying that on them failing to achieve their full potential by getting stuck in low-pay dead-end public sector job.

  • I thought doctors/surgeons were automatically disbarred if they were caught using drugs. Or does the regulatory body believe drugs taken before qualifying don’t count and are non-adictive?

    • RPM

      Just a bit of quality control.

  • Sargv

    So, what lesson is there for us, gentlemen? No matter how crazy she is, no matter what she did to you, she’ll walk away free. No sense in calling the police. Stab back. Tît for tat.

    • galgogirl

      Wow, four times? Perhaps get some new friends or drink in a different pub?

      • Sargv

        It happened back in Russia, and I was sober on both occasions. Mugging one time, four heroin junkies with knives. The other was personal conflict.

        • galgogirl

          Sigh, your life sounds thrilling compared with mine.

          • Sargv

            It sure is.

    • Heh! Old American folk wisdom, “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six”.

  • Labour_is_bunk

    Some feminists may say that the chap on the receiving end got off lightly.

    • hedgemagnet

      And whatever the argument was about, that it would have been his fault that he was stabbed in the first place.

  • Colkitto03

    Why would we be surprised that Upper middle class health professionals are held to a lower threshold of responsibility?
    If a working class mum leaves her small kids alone at home unattended she will be either charged or lose them.
    Say two upper middle class doctors did exactly the same (several nights in a row) while on a Mediterranean beach holiday would they be deemed unfit?

    • CRSM

      I’m not sure, given the accents and yobbo behaviour of two such doctors, that they should be described as ‘upper middle class’.

    • RPM

      And if the working class mum fails to pay her BBC tax, off to jail she goes.

  • Marat

    A couple of factoids, apropos of nothing;

    1. Sarah Champion, Labour’s shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, is also Labour’s spokeswoman on domestic violence issues.

    2. Sarah Champion has been cautioned by police for domestic violence.

  • James

    Imagine if it had the been the man who stabbed the woman.

    I think we all know where that would have gone.

    Isn’t funny how “equality” so often works one way but not the other?

  • UKCitizen

    That’s your take on it!
    Nothing to do with a society destroying itself in a drug and drink haze.
    Nothing to do with a justice system that no longer bothers to dispense justice.
    Nothing to do with a society obsessed with celebrity and narcissism.
    Nothing to do with an education system brainwashing our young with postmodernist values and morals.

  • She should be sent to prison for domestic violence.

    • Sargv

      He was a random f-boy she just met on Tinder, so it’s hardly “domestic”.

      • Groan

        In this country “Domestic violence” is pretty broad and includes casual acquaintance. It helps bump up the figures I suppose.

      • markbrev

        No he wasn’t. They may have met on tinder, but the relationship had grown from there.

    • RPM

      And so should a certain female Labour MP for Rotherham.

  • Timmy

    Not surprising in the UK where I’ve seen calls that women should not go to prison for ANY crimes.

    A while a go there was a woman with more than 10 assaults that put out a man’s eye with her shoe. No jail time.

    In the US women get significantly lighter sentences than men for the same crime.

    This article should have focused on the woman getting a free pass after stabbing someone, not her fitness to be a doctor.

    Google the wonderful woman effect.

    • Groan

      Philip Davies had the Library of Parliament (the body charged with giving MPs the “facts” to challenge the Gov. of the day) Research this and he was surprised to find the situation is exactly the same in the UK.

  • klm

    It seems to me that sending an unsuspecting and innocent heart patient to the care of an unstable cocaine addict is a sentence too severe.

    • Typical American egalitarian! Expecting competence from someone, Our betters in the British elite outgrew that notion long ago. She’s a female, who want to be a famous heart surgeon, what else could matter?

      • Colkitto03

        Our very successful (in recent years) Olympic team is packed full of privately educated boys and girls whose families can afford the tens of thousands needed to sponsor their children’s ambitions.
        Makes you wonder how well we (and you Americans) would do if everyone had a good chance?

        Elite Olympic sports has become a very elite pursuit.

        • True enough. We are, I think a bit more meritocratic than the UK, but a lot of it is still who your family is, and how much you got.

          Reference the Olympics, it surely has, its pretty much full time now, and one friend who is close to some figure skaters, says their parents have spent mid six figures on it, and that was before they were Olympic hopefuls.

          • klm


          • Don’t take it too seriously, I’ve been hanging about with the cousins for quite a while! 🙂

          • klm

            It was the cost of funding figure skaters that has me picking my jaw up off the floor. Half a million bucks??? Wow! Good thing my kids weren’t that into sports!

          • I know, I was shocked as well. I suspect the ones he was talking about had pretty well off parents, who were over indulgent as well. I’m sure you know the type. Thus are born special snowflakes.

  • Lagopus scotica

    By her actions, she has disqualified herself from the medical profession in any form. Drug taking, violence and a criminal record? What the h*ll are the General Medical Council doing? When is her disciplinary hearing to be struck off for life?

    I am so glad my grandmother, a single-handed GP, is no longer around to witness this, if I’d rung her for an opinion, the phone would have melted! (I think my other doctor relatives in previous generations would not have believed such behaviour possible in a young lady, never mind a qualified doctor).

    • Colkitto03

      Yes, indeed,
      What gets me is she stabbed him with a bread knife. Now that takes some doing as they have a serrated edge rather than a pointed edge.!

  • Shamelessly Male

    I’m perfectly fine with her having her career as heart surgeon.
    But just only as long as she’ll operate just only feminists.
    And also the judge, when he’ll be elder.

  • Politically__Incorrect

    Isn’t this another case of wimmin’s rights trumping those of men? If her boyfriend had perpetrated this drug-fuelled violent frenzy then I am sure he would have been removed from his medical course to do some time in the local slammer. My advice to every potential patient is to remember the name Lavina Woodward and if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself on a hospital trolley awaiting her blade-wielding skills then discharge yourself immediately and go elsewhere.

  • PierrePendre

    Lavinia could join the SAS. They’re always looking for people who can throw a punch.

    • Manplant

      The SAS look for mental toughness and stability also. Her character flaws would be exposed in psychological and physical tests that are set for potential recruits.

  • Rintintin

    People don’t throw laptops and stab people with a bread knife in a “one off incident”. She sounds like she quite a disturbed individual with considerable anger.

  • Alaric the Vis

    If a man committed such violence on a woman and received leniency, there would be hysterical howls of feminist outrage.

    A pretty, privileged sister with a sob story receives special treatment.

  • timbazo

    The point of this article is quite correct. The judge completely failed to consider the interests of future patients or indeed the other medical staff required to support a heart surgeon in operation. He also seemed to have missed the point that, while heart surgery was a demanding discipline, Ms Woodward was not irreplaceable. It seems that when considering the fragrant Lavinia all the blood had flowed from his brain to another organ.

  • Mike Buchanan

    Lavinia Woodward will avoid a prison sentence, while a man in exactly the same position who’d stabbed his girlfriend wouldn’t have (regardless of mitigating circumstances) because… well, because vagina:

  • Elizabeth Smith

    I take the view that the combination of substance abuse and extreme violence means this young lady can never be placed in any position of trust. With this conviction, she would never get a taxi driver’s licence, for example.
    Regardless of the inadequacy of her likely sentence she should be slung out of Oxford immediately and her future prospects reduced to what she truly merits, which is stress free work where she doesn’t have to interact with the public. Basically cleaning.
    If she can stay abstinent she might marry.