Some years ago a neighbour, Gladys Cornwall, was confronted by an intruder in her house.

It was late at night, when she literally bumped into the man in her house. He fled. The police arrived, took a statement and provided support. 

Well into her 70s at the time, Gladys lived on her own but did not want to stay in the house alone that night. She stayed at mine, returning the next day.

I had known Gladys (Mrs Cornwall to us) all my life. 

What was amazing about Gladys was how she bore no malice towards the intruder. She forgave him unconditionally. No need for vengeance or retribution. 

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Cllr Paul Donovan was amazed at a neighbour's attitude to being the victim of crimeCllr Paul Donovan was amazed at a neighbour's attitude to being the victim of crime

Today, vengeance and punishment seems to be the all encompassing  motivation relating to offenders.

There seems to be an attitude, particularly in the media on crime, that catching and punishing criminals is all that matters. Fill the prisons up and build more when necessary. Crime and punishment has become a nice little earner for the private sector.

The concepts of vengeance and justice seem to have got mixed up. They are different things.

When someone loses someone or is violated in some way, most people want some recompense. This maybe the perpetrator being caught and punished, compensation for a wrong done or whatever.

Justice though encompasses far more than vengeance. The situation needs to be made better for all concerned.

At a popular level, there is a belief that once someone is locked away out of sight and out of mind, that is job done. All can move on. This is simply not the case. The victims have to live with the consequences of the crime - as does the perpetrator.

Restorative justice schemes are a way of trying to get justice on all sides. Bringing victim and perpetrator together in the right circumstances to try to get some resolution.

Rehabilitation of offenders is also vital. Many lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. They need these and other skills, if they are going to pursue a different productive route when they leave confinement. And most do come out.

All but a handful will come out and could be living next door to anyone. Better surely that they have the skills needed to pursue a legitimate path in life, rather than a criminal one negatively impacting others all over again.

What society needs is to address the causes of crime and deal with perpetrators in a way that ensures they do reoffend. A vengeance based system, putting people out of sight and out of mind with little rehabilitation, just stores up bigger problems for the future.

  • Paul Donovan is Labour councillor for Wanstead Village ward, Redbridge Council, and a blogger (