HMA v Joseph Whyte

Today, at the High Court in Edinburgh, Lord Uist imposed an order for life long restriction on Joseph Whyte with a punishment part of 6 years and 8 months imprisonment after he pled guilty to attempted murder, and committing an assault to the danger of life, on fellow prisoners.

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


"You pleaded guilty to the crime of attempted murder committed on 26 February 2014 and the crime of assault to severe injury, permanent disfigurement and danger of life committed on 8 August 2014.

Each crime was committed on a fellow prisoner while you yourself were a serving prisoner and involved striking the victim on the neck with a bladed instrument. You attacked the victim in charge 1 while he was sitting at a table and then walked off and began swinging a pool cue, saying 'I've killed him, I've killed him'. Later, when you were being taken to the segregation unit, you said to prison officers 'Is he going to live? I'll do a lifer. This is my home'. Your victim suffered a 12 cm, gaping neck wound from the midline to below the left ear and would have died had he not been taken immediately to hospital for surgery. You attacked the victim in charge 2 from behind while he was sitting on stairs by repeatedly striking him on the face and neck with a blade. He suffered two wounds, a cut 7 cm long on the right front of his throat near the carotid artery and the trachea and a 20 cm cut to the left side of his face which required 23 stitches and will leave a permanent scar.


You are now 30 years old. You have a lengthy criminal record dating from 2001 for a variety of crimes, including assault. In particular, on 27 May 2008, you were sentenced to 2 years imprisonment with a 2 year extension period for assault to severe injury, permanent disfigurement and danger to life, and on 14 May 2012, you were sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for two assaults. In light of your criminal record and the circumstances of the crimes to which you pleaded guilty, I made a risk assessment order in respect of you. I have now received the risk assessment report, which makes very depressing reading indeed. You had a very troubled childhood, which clearly damaged you deeply. Since the age of 16 until the present time you have spent most of your life in custody. You have a history of alcohol and drug abuse. You have been diagnosed as having a severe personality disorder with borderline and anti-social features. You told the risk assessor that you felt no emotion towards your victims and no guilt about what you had done. You also told him that if you were released from prison you would kill someone so that you could return to prison and that if you were allowed to associate with other prisoners you would kill another prisoner. You accepted that you clearly posed a high risk of serious harm to others and said you were keen to receive an order for lifelong restriction. You have many risk factors for future violence, including potentially fatal violence, and very few protective factors. The risk assessor has assessed you as posing a high risk to the safety of the public in general.


I am in no doubt that you are a very dangerous man and 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 indefinite 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 the Parole Board for Scotland to be released on licence. Had I been imposing fixed sentences on you following upon conviction by a jury after trial I would have imposed a sentence of 12 years imprisonment on charge 1 and a consecutive sentence of 8 years imprisonment on charge 2, making a total of 20 years imprisonment. As you pleaded guilty at an early stage that period of imprisonment falls to be reduced to 13 years 4 months imprisonment, which would entitle you to apply to be released on licence after having served a period of 6 years 8 months imprisonment. I therefore fix the punishment part of your sentence at 6 years 8 months imprisonment. You must not assume that you will be released at the end of that period: you will be released only when it is considered no longer necessary for the safety of the public that you continue to be confined in prison.


The sentence which I have imposed relates to both charges taken together. Your sentence will run from the expiry of all sentences previously imposed."