I used to live in Easton and used to regularly use the railway path, it was a great way to travel (on foot or by bike) through the city. I used it to walk to St Matts when I taught there and most evenings I used it to walk the dog. I like the path! But after dark I was aware how potentially vulnerable I was and had a couple of experiences where young men emerged from the dark under a bridge and although nothing developed beyond a friendly banter I certainly got a rush of adrenaline.
I was saddened to hear about this assault reported on the excellent Bristol Indymedia. But I was also interested by the response of both the person who wrote the report and others. Whilst they were quite rightly saying something should be done they had little confidence in traditional criminal justice responses and instead were arguing for a form of community justice. I will watch with interest how this develops.
As an aside I am currently reading William Godwin's Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Morals and Happiness published in 1794 (what a thrilling life I lead) and in the second volume he develops a very similar argument arguing that anti-social behaviour needs us to respond (both in terms of conflict resolution and indeed self-defence) as individuals rather than rely on the state.