Last November in Bournemouth, Lewis Gill punched Andrew Young to the ground. Andrew, who (like me) had Asperger Syndrome, cracked his head on the pavement and died in hospital the next day.
Thirteen years ago, a thug in a Lanark street punched me three times to the head, but in my case the circumstances and outcome were a little different. I was then about as old as Andrew was, but unlike him my mental age was that of an adult. I was also a veteran of weight training and boxing gyms; and at a height of six feet four inches as opposed to my assailant's six feet, I outweighed and (as he soon discovered) outgunned him.
Three punches to the head, but it was like a light-heavyweight taking on a heavyweight and he could neither seriously hurt me nor put me down.
Slightly drunk, he then retreated across the street with his hands down, which was not a very bright thing to do when facing a puncher who'd been trained by an ex-amateur boxer.
A left hook put him down, and I'd swear I saw a look of complete disbelief on his face as he hit the pavement. How, that look seemed to say, could a tough young guy like me have been decked by a thirty-eight-year-old librarian?
But this discourse is not meant to be a macho exercise in triumphalism. I was big, fit, well-prepared and lucky. Many people with autism are far less capable of defending themselves. In general, we are somewhat dyspraxic (physically clumsy), our reflexes are not that good (my own reactions were once described as similar in speed to those of a three-toed sloth) and we are not always streetwise enough to know when we are in danger.
I survived my assault, and even managed to send my attacker home with bells ringing in his head.
Andrew Young, who had a mental age of fourteen, no ground-in defensive skills, and probably lacked street smarts, was not so fortunate.
The Attorney General has until March 21st to decide whether Lewis Gill's four year sentence is far too short.
Funnily enough, I'm writing this in Bognor, fairly near Bournemouth.
And frankly, I hope they throw the book at him.
James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.Suggest a correction