A man who’d been sent death threats punched a woman in Casbah as he was “terrified” of what might happen to him, a court heard.

Billy-sam Shervell, 20, had been under investigation for an alleged offence relating to the woman’s relative when she approached him in the Swindon nightclub in the early hours of September 30, 2018.

She was said to have pushed him backwards before Shervell, who was wearing a sovereign ring, punched her in the face.

Swindon Crown Court heard she suffered a fractured eye-socket. She’d had two operations and 30 hospital appointments.

Shervell, of Honeysuckle Close, Haydon Wick, had been due to stand trial on an allegation of causing grievous bodily harm but pleaded guilty to an alternative charge of affray.

Prosecutor Catherine Flint said the defendant had been under investigation at the time over an unrelated allegation concerning a relative of the woman. Police subsequently decided to take no further action against him.

On September 29, Shervell – then 18-years-old - had been at a wedding in Swindon and had been drinking. Together with others he went to Casbah nightclub, arriving at around 40 minutes past midnight on September 30.

He was approached by his victim, who was said to have confronted him over the ongoing police investigation. CCTV captured her pushing him backwards. He responded with a single punch before being thrown out of the club by door staff.

In a basis of plea, he said he had felt threatened and believed he was about to be attacked. He had lashed out in self-defence. He suffered from mental health conditions, including autism.

Anjali Gohil, for Shervell, said her client and his family had been subjected to threats by the woman’s family.

Shervell’s family were so concerned that the young man was later moved out of the area.

On the night of the assault in Casbah, Ms Gohil said: “He was terrified about what was going to happen to him. It’s in that context that a boy of 18 with a mental age much younger, suffering from a mental health disorder, who had never been violent in his life reacted as he did.”

He had no previous convictions, had stable accommodation with his parents and was engaged to be married. A probation officer deemed him to be a low risk to the public and a low risk of reconviction.

Noting the unusual circumstances of the case and the likely impact prison would have on his mental health, Judge Peter Crabtree sentenced him to eight months in a young offenders’ institute suspended for two years. He must serve a five month curfew and pay £750 compensation.

The judge warned those involved in the case against reprisals, saying: “Any future threats or actions would be unacceptable and would have severe consequences if engaged in.”