Falkirk hostel slasher jailed

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A thug who carved a homeless man’s leg open with a piece of broken dinner plate has been jailed for more than three years.

Robert McWhannell – known as Rab – repeatedly slashed and stabbed victim Barry Sharp with the razor-sharp smashed ceramic shard, leaving him with injuries described by a sheriff as “horrific”.

A court was shown a video of the latter stages of the “serious, sustained assault”, which began in Mr Sharp’s room in the Castings Hostel for homeless men in Falkirk, before moving into the reception area and ending only when a woman warden bravely intervened.

McWhannell (31), had become “more and more intoxicated” and “increasingly aggressive” on the day of the incident after drinking Buckfast and taking street Valium, the court was told.

Prosecutor Susan Campbell said McWhannell, who was also resident at the hostel, had initially entered Mr Sharp’s room “for a blether”, but after he was asked to leave, and didn’t, “a struggle ensued” during which some crockery on top of Mr Sharp’s fridge fell to the floor and smashed.

Other residents heard Mr Sharp (36), shouting and demanding that McWhannell left his room.

Miss Campbell said: “A short time later Mr Sharp entered the reception area, his face covered in blood and wearing only shorts, shouting ‘I’ve been stabbed, I’ve been stabbed’.”

He was pursued by McWhannell and the attack continued.

Miss Campbell, the depute fiscal, said: “Mr Sharp was standing at the reception area with his back to the accused, who was also bare chested and had blood on him.

“He slashed Mr Sharp across the back with what appeared to be a piece of broken plate.

“He then repeatedly stabbed and slashed at him, causing him to scream in pain.”

A female warden pressed the panic alarm and stood between Mr Sharp and McWhannell, who left the building and could be seen standing topless outside the common room windows, covered in blood.

Police arrived and handcuffed him and placed him in a police vehicle while paramedics gave Mr Sharp emergency treatment for “numerous” injuries.

Miss Campbell said: “There was a full thickness laceration from corner to corner across the back of his right knee, which was opened wide, exposing the ligaments, tendons and muscles.

“Blood was spurting from it, indicating an arterial bleed.”

He also had a large, 30cm-long laceration over his back from his shoulder to the area of his kidney, another on his nipple, numerous cuts on his torso, and a slash on the right side of his neck.

His bedroom, where the incident had begun, was described as being “covered in blood”.

He had two operations to repair nerve damage and other complications in his leg, and has been left with permanent scarring and long-term reduced sensation in his foot, causing difficulty walking.

McWhannell, of Falkirk, pleaded guilty to assault causing impairment, severe injury, and permanent disfigurement.

Stirling Sheriff Court was told he had been in custody ever since the incident, which occurred on March 26 this year, and had several previous convictions for assault, police assault, and carrying knives.

Lynn Swan, defending, said the unemployed father-of-three had been trying to combat long-standing alcohol addiction by using illegal drugs.

She said: “He has no recollection of the evening whatsoever. Prior to this incident he and Mr Sharp had got on well.”

Jailing McWhannell for 37 months, Sheriff Simon Collins QC said the matter was so serious he had initially thought he might have to send it to the High Court for sentence.

He said: “This was a serious, sustained assault with a sharp weapon, fuelled by drugs and alcohol, which resulted in the complainer sustaining numerous injuries including an horrific laceration to his knee that will likely result in permanent scarring and long-term impairment.

“Given the complainer’s injuries, and the accused’s past record of violent offending and possession of weapons, I have given consideration as to whether I should remit this matter to the High Court for sentencing.

“A substantial custodial sentence is inevitable.”

He ordered the sentence to run consecutive to a 15 month sentence imposed recently at Falkirk Sheriff Court for police assault, for which McWharrell was on bail at the time of the commission of the hostel slashing.

Sheriff Collins added: “The net result is that the accused will be treated as a long-term prisoner by aggregation of the sentences, which will restrict the manner and time of his release.”

He said he hoped the extra time in prison, that would result from this, would give McWharrell “more time for rehabilitation”, and to address the problems which had led to the offence being committed.