London: A 22-year-old Indian-origin student found guilty of stalking by a UK court has been handed a suspended sentence and is to leave for Hong Kong after his university expelled him.
Sahil Bhavnani, who threatened a female student at Oxford Brookes University, was on Thursday handed four months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years and imposed a five-year restraining order.
Judge Nigel Daly pronounced the verdict at the Oxford Crown Court after being informed that Bhavnani will be returning to Hong Kong with his father on Saturday.
Unfortunately for Mr Bhavnani, it’s [Oxford Brookes University] to expel him from the university and the degree he was on, defence lawyer Richard Davies told the court.
A suspended sentence is a sentence on conviction for a criminal offence, the serving of which the court orders to be deferred in order to allow the defendant to perform a period of probation.
According to the Oxford Mail, Bhavnani was due to be sentenced last month, but when the court heard it could be six weeks before the university decided on whether the engineering student would be thrown off his course, the case was adjourned to January 2022.
However, that decision was brought forward again by the university to conclude the case this week.
If you breach that [restraining] order there is a maximum of five years’ imprisonment to serve. I hope that your obsession with her is over, Judge Daly told Bhavnani.
Last month, the court heard that Bhavnani made threats in a 100-page letter delivered to the female nursing student, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
He claimed that he had copied the threats from poetry found online.
In her statement, the victim said that she was terrified that Bhavnani would sexually assault her.
Bhavnani pleaded guilty to stalking, but not guilty to a more serious form of the offence. He has already spent a month on remand after breaching his bail earlier.
“I started getting six-minute-long voice messages saying he was going to make me be his wife, make me have his children, make me live with him, the victim had told the BBC.
The victim had repeatedly made it clear that she was not interested in any kind of relationship, and warned Bhavnani she would contact the police if he continued to harass her.
She is now calling for a change in the university’s policies and urged more support for stalking victims.
In a statement, Oxford Brookes University said it wanted to reassure students that it took “reports of harassment, violence or abuse very seriously” and added that lessons would be learned.
“In this individual case, following a university conduct hearing, the most severe penalty available was applied by the university and the student was expelled from Oxford Brookes,” the university said in a statement.
“We accept, however, that there are lessons we can learn for the future, especially in cases where student behaviour may also constitute a criminal offence,” it added.