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One punch killer on restorative justice: 'I never had the expectation to be forgiven'

Jacob Dunne (left) and Raphael Meade
Image: Ex-Con Carpenters

One punch killer, Jacob Dunne, inadvertently killed a young man in a street fight in 2011. In Ex-Con Carpenters, Crime + Investigation's new show, he reveals how meeting his victim's parents, helped turn his life around.

Jacob remembers being on a night out in Nottingham when his friends called him to tell him, it was 'kicking off'. As Jacob recalls the fight, 'I ran in and punched him.’ It wasn't until he had returned from a family holiday to Tenerife, did he discover that he had delivered a fatal punch.

'He fell backwards and hit the back of his head on the concrete floor and went to hospital,' explains Jacob. 'He had swelling on the brain... He was in hospital for nine days and then tragically his parents had to make the decision to turn the life support machine off.'

Jacob was jailed for 30 months. As a consequence of his conviction, his mother lost her job as a childminder. She was unable to keep up payments on her mortgage and had to sell her home. While prison was tough, a meeting with the prison chaplain on the anniversary of his victim's death helped Jacob 'access the feelings he had been suppressing', he explains in episode one of the series. But it wasn't until he had left prison, that he was able to make amends for what he had done.

After leaving jail, Jacob's probation officer informed him that his victim's parents wanted to speak to him as part of a restorative justice scheme. 'Restorative justice' as Jacob explains 'is a process where people who have been harmed by a crime, speak to the people who have harmed them, to talk about the impact the offence had'.

Over two and a half years, Jacob and his victim's family passed messages back and forth, giving his victim's family the chance to understand more about their son's killer and why Jacob did what he did. They'd ask him questions about how he would change. 'I never had the expectation to be forgiven and I always make that clear,'.

After leaving prison, Jacob began working to educate young people about his experience. He wrote a book and a new play Punch, based on his experience, is being produced in the Nottingham Playhouse.

Jacob relates his story of redemption to Raphael and Taury Meade, the hosts of Ex-Con Carpenters the series that gives those who've done wrong, the chance to do right. In each episode, the father and son team guide former prisoners in designing and creating meaningful pieces of carpentry for someone they’ve hurt through their crimes.

In episode one, the carpenters help Jacob make a community talking circle for his former primary school. A talking circle is a significant choice as since his release, Jacob has been raising awareness about the tragic consequences of fighting. A talking circle puts the focus on dialogue rather than violence.

Hearing about Jacob's story, the hosts can't help but be affected. Taury acknowledges he felt privileged to be part of the story and to help Jacob make the bench. While Dad, Raphael sums it up: 'From the darkness, he's come right through to the light. He's made what was a tragedy into what is a successful story.'

The entire series is available to stream now on Crime + Investigation Play, the only dedicated true crime streaming service, allowing subscribers to watch over 1,000 of true crime content on the go.