Ipswich mum tells of the moment she met the man who killed her son, James Hodgkinson
12:00 26 February 2016
The Ipswich mother of a paramedic killed by a single punch has spoken about coming face to face with the man who struck the fatal blow.
Joan Scourfield, the mother of paramedic James Hodgkinson who died in August 2011, will be featured on national television next week with James’ father David Hodgkinson, of Kirton, near Felixstowe.
The programme will show them meeting Jacob Dunne who was convicted of James’ manslaughter.
Describing how she felt at finally be able to speak to Dunne, Mrs Scourfield, of Britannia Road, Ipswich, said: “It is upsetting, but after meeting him I know he didn’t mean to do it.
“I can’t say I’m 100% forgiving, but I understand he didn’t mean to do anything like that. It was a careless punch that went terribly wrong.
“I think he definitely regrets what he did.”
Her son James died nine days after being struck by 19-year-old Dunne, who was drunk, during a night out in Nottingham.
Dunne – who served 13 months of a 30-month sentence – agreed to meet Mr Hodgkinson’s parents as part of the restorative justice system.
Next week all three will feature together on national television in an ITV1 Tonight Special, entitled Meeting My Enemy, which is scheduled to air on March 3.
Mrs Scourfield, 53, said: “Although 13 months did not seem at the long time, after meeting him and hearing how negative it was for him in prison I think 13 months was about right.
“He was about ready to get back to the lifestyle he was in before.
“I’m not bitter about the sentence now. At the time I was, but it wouldn’t have changed anything however long he would have been in there.
“When he was told about Restorative Services he said it changed his life and he now says it completely turned his life around.”
Although Mrs Scourfield’s feelings towards Dunne have softened it was not always the case.
She said: “At first it was anger and bitterness – why James? Why did he do it?
“When we started contact you realised he didn’t mean to do it. He wasn’t one to go punching people every weekend, although he wasn’t a good character.
“He feels we have helped him a lot. He has helped us too. Meeting him was like closing a chapter.
“He lost his mother during all this and has taken responsibility for his brother. He knows if he hadn’t taken on Restorative Services this would not have been possible, because in his own words when he left prison he was sofa-surfing and going nowhere.”
Following James’ death his parents became actively involved in Nottinghamshire Constabulary’s One Punch Campaign, which aimed to get the message across about the damage a single blow can inflict.
Mrs Scourfield said Dunne is keen to help them in their efforts and prepared to do anything to publicise it.
Dunne dropped out of school at 14 and was in a gang when he killed James. He now gives talks to youngsters and young offenders in an effort to steer them away from the same path.
In the Meeting My Enemy programme Dunne is seen talking to youths at a boxing club about the mistakes he made.
Dunne has now got himself a place at university and is studying criminology.
Mrs Scourfield said: “He still struggles. He vaguely remembers hitting James.
“Five years ago I just thought he was a thug and would not have wanted to have anything to do with him. Today I’m happy to sit next to him.
“I see him as a boy when he hit James, and as a man today.
“I think it shows a very strong character for him to come and meet me.
“He said he wants to say sorry and he knows sorry isn’t enough. He said he would do all he can with the One Punch Campaign to support us, and we support him in his efforts to make a better life for himself.”
After James’ death his parents raised funds for One Punch through various events including an annual cycle ride, which they now continue to do with his friends as a tribute to the former Deben High School pupil.
Mrs Scourfield said: “I miss James terribly. It’s hard to accept he was taken so suddenly.
“Once a year we do the bike ride on the anniversary of when he was in the intensive care unit. There are about 30 of us who get together. It keeps his memory alive with his friends.
“James was a wonderful son. He was very caring.”
At the time of his death James worked for the London Ambulance service and was living in Islington.