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HMA v William James Cosgrove Belk


Nov 19, 2020

At the High Court in Edinburgh today Lord Uist imposed an order for lifelong restriction on William James Cosgrove Belk with a punishment part of 3 years 6 months imprisonment after the accused pleaded guilty to sexual assault with penetration and attempted rape.

On sentencing, Lord Uist made the following statement in court:

“You pleaded guilty to the sexual assault with penetration and attempted rape of a 47 years old woman who suffers from learning difficulties and alcoholism at her home in Edinburgh on 9 June this year. You attacked her in the manner set out in the charge on the indictment while she was asleep on the sofa in her living room. She struggled, kicked and screamed and tried to push you off. The only reason why you were unable to commit the completed crime of rape was because she struggled and kicked. The incident ended when you eventually stood up after she said that she needed to go to the toilet. When you were arrested in a nearby street shortly thereafter you admitted attempted rape to the police and also later at police interview at the police station. You had been released from prison only 18 days earlier, on 22 May 2020.

You are now 53 years old. You have a disgraceful criminal record. In April 1998 you were convicted in the sheriff court of, among other things, assault with intent to ravish. You breached the probation order imposed for that offence and were subsequently sentenced to 30 months imprisonment. In June 2003 you were convicted of rape in the High Court and sentenced to an extended sentence consisting of a custodial term of 10 years and an extension period of 5 years. After release from that sentence you breached your licence conditions and were recalled to prison to serve the remainder of your sentence. In August 2018 you were sentenced in the sheriff court to 8 months imprisonment for failing to comply with the notification requirements of a convicted sex offender. In July 2019 you were convicted at North Essex Magistrates’ Court of battery and breach of a sexual harm prevention order and sentenced to a total of 26 weeks imprisonment. On 23 January this year you were sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court to 8 months imprisonment for again failing to comply with the notification requirements of a convicted sex offender.

In view of the circumstances of the crime to which you pleaded guilty and your criminal record I considered that the risk criteria might be met in your case and called for a risk assessment report. That report is now available and, unsurprisingly, the risk assessor has assessed you as presenting a high risk to the safety of the public at large if at liberty. I am told by the risk assessor that you have a pervasive and persistent pattern of using sexual violence towards females which has been sadistic in nature and caused life-threatening harm to the victims; that you have entrenched personality characteristics which lend themselves to the continued use of sexual violence in order to achieve your own gratification; that you have been deceptive and manipulative, used an alias and lived a transient lifestyle to avoid detection and continue to target victims and act in a sexually violent and harmful manner towards them; that you hold entrenched attitudes and beliefs towards females which devalue and degrade them and that you view them as exploitable for your own means; that you have disregarded rules and restrictions placed upon you and continued to act in a self-serving, entitled manner to meet your sexual needs and desires; that you have failed to gain any benefit from long periods of intensive sexual offender group work treatment and that your personality is resistant to interventions to reduce your risks; that you have experienced long and continuous periods of imprisonment as a result of your sexual violence but that you continue to disregard the law and requirements imposed on you; and that imprisonment has not served as a deterrent to your entrenched and pathological desire to inflict deviant and sadistic sexual acts, causing pain, humiliation and degradation to your female victims.  You have described yourself as a sex maniac and expressed a compulsive need to be sexually violent towards females. You have a psychopathic personality disorder. It is clear to me that you are a very violent and highly dangerous man.

I am satisfied, on the basis of the risk assessment report and the other information placed before me, that the risk criteria are met in your case. The nature or circumstances of the crime to which you pleaded guilty are, either in themselves or as a pattern of behaviour, such as to demonstrate that there is a likelihood that you, if at liberty, will seriously endanger the lives, or physical or psychological well-being, of members of the public at large. I therefore make an order for lifelong restriction in respect of you. That order constitutes a sentence of imprisonment for an indeterminate period. I must also fix the punishment part of your sentence, being the period which you must spend in full in custody before you can apply to the Parole Board for Scotland to be released on licence. Had I been imposing a fixed sentence on you after conviction by a jury I would have imposed a sentence of 12 years imprisonment. As you pleaded guilty at an early stage that sentence falls to be reduced to 8 years imprisonment. Applying the appropriate formula, I fix the punishment part of your sentence at 3 years 6 months. You must not assume that you will be released at the end of that period: you will be released only when it is considered that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that you continue to be confined in prison. Your sentence will run from 10 June 2020.”

19 November 2020