HMA v Craig Donaldson

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 13 April 2015, Lord Uist imposed an order for lifelong restriction on Craig Donaldson with a punishment part of three years and nine months after the accused pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Patrick Feeley.

On sentencing, Lord Uist made the following statement in court:

“Craig Ian Robert William Donaldson, you pleaded guilty at a preliminary hearing to assaulting Patrick Feeley in a house in Burntisland on 23 April last year by striking him on the neck with a knife to his severe injury, permanent disfigurement and to the danger of his life and attempting to murder him.

You had both been drinking, you had an argument with him and challenged him to a fight outside. You then obtained a knife from the kitchen, approached him from behind and struck him on the neck with the knife. You then climbed out of a window and ran off. The police later found the blood-stained blade of a knife on the couch and when you were detained its handle was discovered in your back pocket.

Mr Feeley suffered a 2cm incision to the left side of his neck and the wound was 3cm deep. Fortunately for him there was no injury to any major vessels, but if the angle of attack had been slightly different he would have died. He will be left with a scar at the site of the wound.

You are now almost 32 years old. Any employment you have had has been casual and infrequent. You have an extensive criminal record dating from August 1999. It is clear that you are a habitual criminal. Most of the offences which you have committed are offences of dishonesty, road traffic offences and offences of minor disorder, but you also have convictions for crimes of violence.

On 27 February 2003 you were sentenced to nine months detention for assault to severe injury and assault to injury, both committed while you were on bail. On 5 March 2003 you were sentenced to five months detention for assault committed while you were on bail. On 6 October 2004 you received a community service order of 200 hours for assault committed while you were on bail. On 15 February 2007 you were sentenced to 4 months imprisonment for two charges of assault. On 3 March 2010 you were sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for assault and robbery committed while you were on bail. On 28 June 2010 you were fined £200 for assault to injury. On 1 October 2010 you were sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for assault committed while on bail and another offence. On 1 May 2012 you were sentenced to 14 months imprisonment for assault to severe injury and robbery while on bail. You have breached probation and other community sentences on numerous occasions. You were released from prison on 31 March 2014, just over three weeks before you committed this crime of attempted murder.

In view of the circumstances of the crime to which you pleaded guilty, your criminal history for violence and the terms of the criminal justice social work report I obtained a risk assessment report on you. It has assessed you as being at high risk to the safety of the public at large. There is no evidence to contradict that assessment, which I accept.  Furthermore, the risk assessor has stated that you suffer from borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder with psychopathic traits and that you have a long history of impulsive, irresponsible and aggressive behaviour, displayed almost without any regard for consequences, either short term or long term. The risk assessor has also expressed the opinion that your use of a knife on this occasion and the fact that the injury could have been fatal, when considered against the background of your extensive previous violence, suggest that the implications for your victims of violence could be grave.

Your counsel has made a valiant effort to persuade me that the risk criteria are not met in your case, but he has not succeeded in doing so. Having regard to the circumstances of this crime and the terms of the criminal justice social work report and the risk assessment report, I am satisfied that the risk criteria are met in your case. I therefore make an order for lifelong restriction in respect of you. That order constitutes a sentence of imprisonment for an indeterminate period. I must also fix the punishment part of your sentence, being the period which you must spend in full in prison before you can apply to be released on licence. Had I been imposing a fixed sentence following upon conviction by a jury after trial I would have imposed a sentence of 10 years imprisonment. As you pleaded guilty at a preliminary hearing that sentence falls to be discounted to seven years six months imprisonment, which would entitle you to apply for release on licence after having spent three years nine months in prison. I therefore fix the punishment part of your sentence at three years nine months.

You must not assume that you will be released from prison at the end of that period: you will be released only when it is considered no longer necessary for the protection of the public that you continue to be confined in prison. If you engage with any offence-focused work in prison, as you say you will, that will be likely to be a factor taken into consideration by the Parole Board when it comes to decide whether, and if so, when you should be released on licence. Your sentence will run from 25 April 2014.”