Man Who Stabbed Social Worker Loses Bid To Cut Sentence

A father who stabbed a social worker six times in the back has failed in an appeal to cut his indefinite jail sentence.

Sunderland psychiatric patient Graham Burton, 41, attempted to kill Claire Selwood, 38, during a meeting at a school.

Ms Selwood was left with a kitchen knife embedded in her back and lost five pints of blood.

Burton, of Hill Crescent, Murton, Seaham, was sentenced to imprisonment for public protection (IPP) – an indefinite sentence almost identical to a life term – at Newcastle Crown Court on June 15 this year.

He had pleaded guilty to attempted murder. A minimum term of 11 years eight months was set on the IPP.

At London’s Criminal Appeal Court yesterday, his lawyers asked Lord Justice Latham, Mr Justice Jack, and Mr Justice Cranston to reduce that minimum term, claiming it was too long in light of his mental problems and his guilty plea.

The court heard that Burton had a “psychopathic and dysfunctional personality” which was to lead to him being admitted to Sunderland’s Cherry Knowle Hospital shortly before his attack on the social worker.

On October 20 last year, while he was thought to be inside a psychiatric unit, Burton turned up at the school where Ms Selwood, of Chester-le-Street, was holding a meeting.

He had discharged himself from hospital and, without warning, approached Ms Selwood from behind and stabbed her six times in the back.

Fortunately, none of the wounds were life threatening, but one of them missed her heart by millimetres and she has been left with permanent nerve damage to her lower limbs which has ruined her career as a social worker.

Burton’s lawyers argued he was not given enough credit by the sentencing judge for his mental difficulties and his guilty plea.

But Lord Justice Latham dismissed his appeal against sentence saying: “The actual harm done in this case was very grave. The victim is unlikely to be able to work again at a job that she liked.

“The sentence was undeniably a severe one against the background of his mental condition, but this was an offence which was very close to being the most serious form of offences of this sort.

“We have come to the conclusion that the figure of 11 years eight months was not manifestly excessive and we accordingly dismiss this appeal,” the judge concluded.