Mum on how she became friends with son’s killer - and power of restorative justice
PUBLISHED: 06:36 16 November 2020 | UPDATED: 17:12 16 November 2020
A mother who became friends with the man who killed her son has spoken of the benefits of restorative justice and how it’s never too late to turn a life around.
Joan Scourfield was living in Suffolk in 2011 when her son James Hodgkinson, a trainee paramedic, was hit in the face on a night out in Nottingham and died in hospital nine days later.
She now works with the man who killed her son, Jacob Dunne, helping deter people from the life he was living.
The pair’s relationship now is very distant from the feelings Mrs Scourfield had at the time of her son’s death.
Mr Dunne was given 30 months for manslaughter but served only 13 months, after his age and guilty plea was taken into account.
“I was eaten up by it,” said Mrs Scourfield.
“My son’s life was worth more than that.”
Shortly before Jacob was due to be released, the family had the idea of restorative justice discussed with them.
For the family, it felt like a way to answer recurring questions they had, including whether Jacob felt any remorse for what he had done.
“We had got nothing to lose,” said Mrs Scourfield.
“I just wanted answers from that night.”
The family were put in touch with a charity called Remedi, from Sheffield, which charity specialises in restorative justice.
Mrs Scourfield was then able to pass questions she had on to the team, who asked for Mr Dunne’s thoughts before passing on feedback to the family with not only his thoughts, but his emotional responses to the questions.
One question in particular came as a surprise to Jacob.
“I asked what he was going to do with his life,” said Mrs Scourfield.
“I think he was shocked someone was bothered about him.
“He had nothing to write on his CV.”
Mr Dunne has since studied for his GCSEs and has gone on to get a degree in criminology.
It was about this time that both sides to decided to take the next step forward.
“We all agreed it was a good time to meet,” said Mrs Scourfield.
“I kept thinking he would not come.”
Mr Dunne did make the visit and Mrs Scourfield said she was surprised by the kind of man Jacob appeared to be.
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“When he walked in he was just a vulnerable young man,” said Mrs Scourfield.
“I could not believe he was a normal person.”
The pair have continued to stay in contact ever since. They hold talks with about their lives and experiences in the hope that others realise it is not too late to change their lives.
Their story even featured in a series of BBC podcasts.
Mrs Scourfield has been impressed by the changes she has seen in the young man over the years.
“I can’t believe how he has turned his life around,” said Mrs Scourfield.
“He has dark days when he recalls hitting James.
“I have dark days. That cannot be changed.”
Mrs Scourfield said that restorative justice might not work as well as for others as it had for her, but said that it was worth it if made a difference to even a small number of cases.
But what would James make of everything that has happened since his death?
“I think James would be very pleased that Jacob has turned his life around,” said Mrs Scourfield.
“It’s not going to happen to anyone else.”
The experience has been positive not only for Mr Dunne but for other people he used to associate with.
“Some of the members of the gang turned themselves around,” said Mrs Scourfield.
Mrs Scourfield says she will keep on working to raise awareness and help have an impact on other people’s lives by talking to them about James and Mr Dunne’s stories.
“If you do something wrong, it’s never too late,” said Mrs Scourfield.
• International Restorative Justice week takes place from November 15-22.
Victims of crime who are interested in finding out more about restorative justice can visit the Suffolk Constabulary website to find out more about the Restorative Justice Hub and the services provided.
To find out more about restorative justice and how to access the Norfolk and Suffolk Restorative Justice Service, visit Suffolk police’s website.
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