Abdulrahman Abdelsalam, formerly a second year law student at Lady Margaret Hall, was sentenced last Thursday to nine months imprisonment for an assault occasioning actual bodily harm. The attack, which was carried out against another student, Jeanne Marie Ryan, occurred on 22nd March 2014 at the Plush Lounge nightclub.
During the trial in June, Abdelsalam, of Edgware, Greater London, told a jury at Oxford Crown Court that he had attacked a woman in self-defence, and denied the allegations that he had groped her. Abdelsalam was unanimously convicted by the jury of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, but was acquitted of the sexual assault charges.
Shortly after the assault had occurred, Ryan’s ”no makeup selfie” raised almost £17,000 for the Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre. The image, posted on her Facebook account over a year ago, showed her physical injuries from the incident which, last Thursday, Judge Ian Pringle concluded were the consequence of ”a sustained or repeated assault on this young lady […] the injury was serious.” He added, “I would be failing in my duty if I were to not pass a sentence today of imprisonment.” Abdelsalam’s defence lawyers had sought community service rather than imprisonment.
Though Abdelsalam has been acquitted of sexual assault, questions continue to be raised about the importance of tackling the issue of sexual assault, especially towards women, during their time at university. Eden Tanner, the co-chair of operations for OUSU’s It Happens Here Campaign, a ‘campaign raising awareness of sexual abuse and violence happening in Oxford and in our University’ told Cherwell, “we appreciate how difficult the legal process can be for survivors of sexual violence, and we hope that, in this case, she is at peace with the outcome and has appropriate support. It Happens Here (email@example.com) is very happy to signpost to local support services if this case has brought up difficulties for any readers”.
The Manager of the Plush Lounge, Stuart Hayle, told Cherwell today that he was ”glad the law has taken its course” and that the victim was ”brought justice”. He wished to add to this his original statement given to Cherwell last October still applied. In this statement Hayle had emphasised that these kinds of attacks were ”extremely rare” and commended Ms. Ryan’s use of ”a revolting and unprovoked attack to try and help others.”
A spokesperson from the University of Oxford issued Cherwell with the following statement concerning the conviction of Abdulrahman Abdelsalam, “The University regards violent behaviour as unacceptable. Any student convicted of an offence carrying a possible custodial sentence is automatically referred to the University Proctors.” Abdelsalam‘s account continues to exist on the University’s Nexus email system.