Opinion: ‘Violence destroys lives and families’

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Saturday, 25th September 2021, 2:16 pm
The Houses of Parliament.

The prime minister is in America at the moment, attending the UN in New York and meeting president Biden and vice-president Harris in Washington.

America is among our most important allies. I’m pleased that the UK’s relationship with the United States is now on much better footing, not least after the launch of the new ‘AUKUS’ defence agreement between the US, the UK and Australia.

Anything that makes the French squeal so loudly is significant.

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That said, although they do lose a submarine contract, this agreement wasn’t really about them. We want to continue to work with France and others to ensure security in the Indo-Pacific.

Yet it did make me chuckle about all those who claimed Brexit would see us isolated on the world stage. Instead, we are coming into our own.

With Boris off batting for Britain, it fell to Dominic Raab to take Prime Minister’s Questions. Stand-in occasions like this can fall a bit flat (and Angela Raynor did), but my colleague, Dehenna Davison MP, gave it some meaning.

Dehenna was 13 years old when a man who later admitted he was high on drink and drugs walked across a pub in Sheffield and ended her father’s life with a single punch. It hit him in exactly the worst spot, causing an artery to burst, and he died almost instantly.

Her father’s killer was found not guilty of murder, but sentenced to prison. She faced the pain of his release after 18 months of his sentence and, later, the shock and anger of seeing him in the street.

At the age of only 16, it was Dehenna who had to represent her family at a criminal injuries compensation tribunal. She was left with a burning sense of injustice.

As she has explained previously, it’s not a life that she would want other young people to have. And she’s been incredibly brave in raising these issues on their behalf in Parliament.

This week is One Punch Awareness Week. So Dehenna made sure she was at PMQs to talk about the “chain reaction of events following the death of my father from a single-punch assault”. But her real point was that “my dad is just one of many victims”.

She asked the deputy prime minister to join her in marking One Punch Awareness Week and the work of organisations to raise awareness and campaign for action. He did, rightly praising her work.

Since she was elected to represent Bishop Aukland in 2019, many families have contacted her with their own experiences of one-punch attacks. There is a shared feeling that sentencing has been too lenient.

Likewise, we need policies to reduce this kind of violence. Dehenna has spoken about educating disadvantaged young people, rehabilitating offenders and giving our police the resources they need to do their jobs.

I completely agree. She has been an absolute champion for this cause, despite the pain that these issues must cause her. No-one is left unscarred by the loss of a parent, but what she must have felt is beyond comprehension.

Here in Peterborough, we need the message to go out: one punch can kill.

Violence destroys lives and families.

And it should be met with the full force of the law.