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Judge hands down ‘surprisingly light’ sentence to prisoner after hearing his ‘depressing and disturbing’ case

A prisoner has been handed a ‘surprisingly light’ sentence after a judge concluded he had been behind bars for too long. Daniel Ritchie used a homemade knife to cut into the face of a man sweeping the hallway outside his cell in B wing at HMP Gartree, near Market Harborough, in retaliation for an earlier attack.

Leicester Crown Court heard Ritchie, 29, is currently serving an indeterminate public protective sentence (IPP), handed down in 2012, with a minimum sentence of four years. He was charged when he was 19 for an offense of grievous bodily harm with intent, when he used a brick to fracture a man’s skull.

Judge Timothy Spencer QC expressed concern that Ritchie was still locked up a decade later. Because of the “worrying” situation, he said, he would give the defendant a lesser sentence than he would otherwise.

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Lucky Thandi, prosecuting, said the attack happened at 8.30am on February 17, 2020, when a guard unlocked Ritchie’s cell door to allow him to empty his bin. A prisoner performing cleaning duties suddenly felt what he thought was a punch to the left cheek when someone brushed past him.

He turned to see Ritchie armed with an “improvised” knife. He then realized that he had been lacerated.

It left him with a permanent scar and flashbacks, the court was told. Ritchie, who was moved to another prison, made a “full confession” including making a weapon out of a razor and nail clippers.

He claimed the victim had been involved in a ‘blow’ on him a few days earlier that left him with injuries requiring 24 stitches to his face and arm. However, another inmate is being prosecuted for the attack on Ritchie, and it is unclear what role, if any, the slashed inmate played.

During the proceedings, the court was told that Ritchie had not been released from his IPP sentence despite five parole board review hearings. Judge Timothy Spencer QC asked why Ritchie had not been released sooner.

His lawyer, Jonathan Dunne, said: “Because of his behavior in custody, he says. He should have been released in 2016. The reality is that he won’t be released until the parole board clears him. will not have said.”

Mr Dunne added that it ‘took the police 19 months to charge him’ for the clipping offence. Prosecutor Ms Thandi said the delay was because medical evidence was repeatedly requested from the ‘wrong hospital’ – Leicester Royal Infirmary, when the victim was treated at Kettering.

Ritchie appeared in court via video link from jail and pleaded guilty to intentional injury in connection with the beatings. Sentencing him, Judge Timothy Spencer QC said: “It’s a sad story. You went inside as a very young man and you’re still inside 10 years later and in my opinion , you shouldn’t be.”

He added: “I don’t want to know precisely what was going on at HMP Gartree. The prisoners were bent on violence and vendetta.

“I accept that you were the victim of an appalling attack and that you suffered disfiguring injuries. In the macho world of prison, you felt you had to act, but that does not condone your violent attack with a weapon white on the fender cleaner.”

The judge said he was reducing the sentence to take into account the “longer than normal” time already served for the 2012 offense – a situation he described as “depressing and disturbing”. He added: “On the face of it, my sentence is surprisingly light, but these are very exceptional circumstances.

“I really hope that one day you will be seen by a parole board who can release you – it’s not in my powers but it depends on your own behavior.”

Ritchie received a sentence of two years and 10 months. The defendant thanked the judge, saying, “I appreciate that, Your Honor.”