Life

Radio review: Devastating impact of a single punch

Nuala McCann

The Punch Radio 4

When he was 18 years old, Jacob Dunne threw a single punch in a drunken brawl outside a pub in Nottingham.

The man he hit, James Hodgkinson, 28, died in hospital nine days later. Jacob was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Ten years on, he is 27, he has gone from angry teenager to responsible father of two children. He has a degree and has set his heart on a career helping others.

One punch had a devastating effect on so many lives.

Jacob's honesty shone through.

It was not easy listening but it was strong evidence of the power of restorative justice.

He has, he said, done a lot of work around the crime that he committed, including talking to the people whom he hurt most – James' parents Joan and David.

It's a complicated and painful story, starting with a frank conversation with James' parents about what happened that night.

Together they relived the moment when, with just one punch from Jacob, James ended up dying and so many lives were torn apart.

It wasn't even a row in which Jacob was involved.

“I was punching this person - I wanted to feel wanted within my social group and respected,” said Jacob.

“The intention was never really to cause any significant harm. It was more to get brownie points with my friends.”

By the time it came to sentencing, Jacob said he felt “grateful to go to prison”.

“I remember being told the family were in the courtroom and, as a result, I couldn't hold my head up.”

This was a series recorded during lockdown and recorded in the privacy of his car – he had two children in the house.

James' parents and his former parole officer spoke too.

We learned how Jacob's mother, a childminder, was told she couldn't continue because her son was violent. She lost her job, her home and descended into alcoholism.

Yes this was devastating but it was also compelling.

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