HMA v Joseph Whyte

At Edinburgh High Court today (14 February) Judge McFadyen sentenced Joseph Whyte, who was already serving two sentences for attacks on fellow prisoners with bladed implements, to a further 5 years and 4 months imprisonment after he pled guilty to seriously assaulting a fellow prisoner with an improvised bladed implement.

On sentencing, Judge McFadyen made the following statement in court:

“You have pleaded guilty to the crime of assault to severe injury, permanent disfigurement and danger of life committed on 14 August 2019 in the Segregation Unit at HM Prison, Edinburgh.

This 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.  This has become something of a pattern for you.  In 2015 you were sentenced to an order for lifelong restriction with a punishment part of 6 years and 8 months for two separate but chillingly similar attacks on fellow prisoners and you have since then, in November 2018 been sentenced to a further 6 years imprisonment for attempting to murder another prisoner, again with a sharp object.  I am told you cannot be considered for release until 31 May 2028.

On this occasion you were within the segregation unit, being escorted back from making a telephone call by no less than four prison officers, when you lunged towards your victim, a pass-man, who was minding his own business and enjoying a cup of coffee, striking him to the right and then left sides of his head with an improvised weapon – a hinge with a razor blade – which you had somehow secreted about you, despite your record and the obvious danger that you represent to others within the prison.

Your victim sustained two injuries, one of which required two sutures and the other, which was 10cm in length and ran across the left side of his throat and neck, required 12 sutures.   The wounds were superficial but the larger wound in particular was close to significant organs or structures and your victim will be permanently disfigured.

You later explained to officers that you did not have any issue with prison staff, but you did with sex offenders.

You are now 34 years old.  Ignoring breaches of probation, this is your 38th separate conviction and by my calculation the 13th separate occasion when you have been convicted of assault, although some of these convictions were for more than one assault.  I have been shown the risk assessment report, which was prepared in connection with your conviction in 2015 and in which you were diagnosed as having a severe personality disorder with borderline and anti-social features. You told the risk assessor 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 were not surprisingly assessed as posing a high risk to the safety of the public in general.

You have since then continued to demonstrate the risk that you present to others and in particular fellow prisoners.

Given in particular your continued grave offending you may never be considered safe for release and I understand that may indeed be your wish. I do not consider that a further indeterminate sentence would serve any purpose at this stage.  All that I consider that I can reasonably do today is to impose a sentence which will nonetheless further affect the timescale within which you may ultimately be considered for release.

Taking account of all of your circumstances, including the length of time before you can even be considered for release, I shall impose a sentence of 5 years and 4 months imprisonment, reduced from 8 years to reflect your plea of guilty and this sentence will be served consecutively to the punishment part of your order for lifelong restriction and the subsequent determinate sentence of 6 years which has itself been ordered to run consecutively to the punishment part of that order.”