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Paedophile sentence clarified

John Malcolm White (Photograph supplied)

The legal rationale behind the release of convicted paedophile John Malcolm White, 46, who left jail after serving less than half his original sentence, has emerged from his court file.

White, jailed in 2004 for a range of sexual offences involving three young boys, returned to the community on October 31, triggering outrage — with many questioning how he could have been freed from Westgate after 12 years behind bars. However, in a detail that appears to have gone unreported at the time, his prison term was cut by the Court of Appeal in 2005 from 25 years to 18 — with the Justices finding “some force” in the defence’s submission that imposing the maximum permitted sentence had been excessive.

Noting that sentencing judge Carlisle Greaves had expressed “extreme distaste” for White in his remarks, the Court of Appeal concluded: “We share that feeling, but at the same time we must acknowledge that a worse case might occur, though as far as we are aware it has never done so in these islands, and we sincerely hope that it never will.”

In a ruling that illustrates the technical intricacies on which a case rests, the Justices found that several of the 20-year sentences given to White were wrong in principle, also cutting the sentence for a single charge of serious sexual assault from 25 to 18 years.

White’s case, which this month reignited a national debate over sharing information with the public on convicted sex offenders, led many to mistakenly assume that he had been paroled — but the defendant, nicknamed “Chalkie”, was automatically released from jail after serving two-thirds of his time. His release and whereabouts were not made public.

White was initially found guilty on October 4, 2004, by a unanimous jury verdict, of a raft of charges involving three young boys, ranging from serious sexual assault, sexual assault, attempted buggery and sexual exploitation of a young person by a person in a position of trust.

Additionally, by a majority verdict, he was found guilty of assault occasioning bodily harm.

A police officer at the time of the offences, White was acquainted with the families of the three boys. According to the prosecution, White expressed no remorse and did not apologise, either to the victims or their families, and “vehemently” maintained his innocence, expressing “bewilderment” at the unanimous verdict. A Social Inquiry Report noted his high risk of reoffending.

On November 3, 2004, he was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. Within a day of his incarceration, White was assaulted, and he was subsequently kept in isolation. In November 2005, White’s appeal against conviction was dismissed by the Court of Appeal — but a separate ruling, dated November 25, cut his jail time by seven years.