Edinburgh thug who threatened to behead prison officer has 'appalling' history of violence against inmates

A notorious violent prisoner threatened to behead a prison officer in Edinburgh today after a court failed to give him a life sentence.

Joseph Whyte was sentenced to five years and four months imprisonment for his latest attack on another inmate with an improvised weapon.

But as the 34-year-old was led from the dock at the High Court in Edinburgh he told the sentencing judge: "If you don't give a life sentence I am just going to start doing it to prison officers.

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The High Court in EdinburghThe High Court in Edinburgh
The High Court in Edinburgh
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"I am telling you I will f***ing cut the head off one of them," he said as he was led in handcuffs to cells.

Whyte had pled guilty to an attack on another prisoner in the segregation unit at Edinburgh's Saughton prison in which he left the man scarred for life.

'Is he going to die?'

He admitted repeatedly striking George Taylor on the head and neck with a bladed implement to his severe injury, permanent disfigurement and to the danger of his life on August 14 last year.

Whyte was already serving an Order for Lifelong Restriction for two earlier attacks on prisoners.

He tried to murder a fellow inmate Alexander Smith in Saughton jail after slashing him on the neck with a razor before walking away sniggering to himself.

Whyte asked an officer after the attack: "Is he going to die? I hope he dies." The victim had 20 staples inserted into a gaping neck wound following the assault in 2014.

He was then transferred to Addiewell prison, in West Lothian, and assaulted another prisoner Jason Motion who suffered wounds to his throat and face that required 33 stiches.

Whyte was ordered to serve a minimum term of six years and eight months before he was eligible to apply for release under the OLR. He was sentenced to a further six years in 2018 for trying to murder another prisoner. Because of the sentences that he has built up the earliest that he can now be considered for release is in 2028.

'Completely institutionalised'

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He told an expert who prepared a report on him that if he was released from prison he would kill someone so he could return to jail.

Defence solicitor advocate Ewen Roy told judge Norman McFadyen today that Whyte was "completely institutionalised" and had asked if a life sentence could be sought following his latest offence.

"There is an element of committing the offence to ensure he is never released. He actively seeks containment."

"He has no wish at all to be on the outside. He has no desire to be a part of the general prison population. His preference is to be in segregation," said Mr Roy.

He added: "It is acknowledged and accepted he has an appalling record for violence." He said there was an element of planning in the latest attack as Whyte had fashioned his own weapon in advance of the assault.

After the assault on Taylor, who needed 14 sutures put in two wounds, Whyte told officers he did not have issues with prison staff but did with sex offenders.

Homemade weapon

He was under escort by four officers in the segregation unit after making a phone call when he saw Taylor having a cup of coffee at a pantry area and lunged at him with the weapon before he was restrained.

He struck the victim to the left and right sides of his head with the homemade weapon - a hinge with a razor blade fastened to it.

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Mr Roy said he understood that when Whyte now leaves his segregation cell he is manacled as well being escorted by a security detail.

The judge told Whyte, originally from Edinburgh: "You were not surprisingly assessed as posing a high risk to the safety of the public in general."

"Given, in particular, your continued grave offending you may never be considered safe for release and I understand that may indeed be your wish."

But the judge said he did not consider that imposing another indeterminate sentence would serve a 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."

The judge ordered the latest sentence to run from the end of the minimum term imposed on Whyte under the OLR and the further six years for the subsequent attempted murder which was also a consecutive sentence.