Simon Jenkins is an author and newspaper columnist who often writes for the Guardian.
Two days ago we published a piece about Lavinia Woodward, a 24-year-old drug-addict and Oxford University student who will probably not serve a prison sentence for stabbing her boyfriend, because… well, because vagina, basically.
So what does Simon Jenkins have to make of this case, in his piece in today’s Guardian? No sympathy for the stabbed boyfriend, needless to say. On the one hand he makes some valid points about prison sentences blighting promising young lives, but then compares the Woodward case with that of a male Durham University student:
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.
Does Jenkins conclude, reasonably, that there’s an appalling justice gender gap here? No. Bizarrely – and, I suggest, maliciously – he concludes the difference can be attributed to the students being at different universities. The next paragraph:
I do not suggest that these crimes are comparable or that either is remotely defensible. Students can be as cruel to each other as any mortal. But the punishments are starkly different, the one temporary and lenient, the other permanent and catastrophic. The implication is blatant: that the effect of jail on an Oxford graduate’s glittering career is so much worse than for anyone else as to make such punishment unthinkable.
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