I can’t get out of my head the case of Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkamp the guy with Aspergers who was caught stealing light fittings from houses in Christchurch. This has been dealt with on other blogs, far more articulately than I could, but it is still in my thoughts.
I am appalled at the thought of looters in Christchurch, at a time of such utter devastation and tragedy. It seems such a callous crime, and in most of the reported cases it appears to be so. I don’t blame anyone for having a strong reaction to the news. But as ever in matters of justice, it pays to step back, look at each case on its own and hear all the facts and background.
From what I have read, callous is not a word that can be attributed to Arie Smith. As I read the words of his sister in the link above I instantly thought of people I know on the autistic spectrum, some much younger, some older, and I realised how easily they could end up in a situation like this. Arie’s family have acknowledged his wrong-doing and accepted his arrest. But this is a mini-tragedy amidst a much larger tragic situtation, and one that deserves a little understanding.
I don’t know what the circumstances are that saw him covered in bruises. But I do know that it disturbs me deeply, and I want it investigated. I also truly hope Judith Collins regrets her statement made in the wake of looting incidents. She was playing to the crowd of course, and I don’t think was refering directly to Arie, but it was not the calm words of leader in our community.
Overall as a society, even in times of unimaginable tragedy and extraordinary emotion we need think before we act, ask why someone might act in a way we do not like or understand and, when faced with a situation such as this, operate with compassion and understanding. At a practical level we also need to help people learn more about Autism and Aspergers. Here is a place to start.