Martin 1

OK, I’ve finished reading “A Right to Kill?” by Tony Martin.

For our non-UK readers I should explain that Tony Martin is a farmer who, having been plagued by burglaries at his home, shot two burglars whom he surprised in his house. One escaped – but was arrested in hospital while being treated for leg wounds – the other, sixteen year old Fred Barras, died. Tony Martin was tried on a number of charges, and was found guilty of murder, which was reduced on appeal to manslaughter, and he served a short sentence.

After his previous burglaries, Martin had lost all faith in the Police, and refused to co-operate when questioned, which is a shame, as there’s no doubt that initially, before Barras died, the Police interviewing him considered him to be a bit of a hero. He was also unco-operative in court, lying when he had no need to, and this attitude undoubtedly helped the prosecution build their case against him. There were also suggestions, never proved, of jury intimidation.

English law allows for the use of “reasonable force” to defend self and property, but there’s no real definition of reasonable anywhere, and each individual jury has to decide each case. Martin was cleared of all charges relating to the burglar who survived, and he stated that he deliberately fired low, in order to only hit them in the legs, but was blinded by them shining a torch in his eyes and didn’t know that Barras was kneeling (putting his booty into a holdall), which is why he was hit in the upper body causing more serious wounds.

The point, of course, is whether he was justified to be shooting at all: He said he was afraid he was going to be attacked and acted in self defence. Personally I think intent is everything – if he intended to kill, well I don’t think that’s ever justified. But if he was genuinely in fear for his safety, and couldn’t see what he was shooting at, well that’s fair enough. No doubt some of you will have other opinions!

Personally, if I discovered burglars in my home (or was attacked in the street, or whatever), and had some kind of weapon, I’d use it and worry about the consequences later. I’d rather be tried by twelve men than carried by six.

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