May 12, 2009

Could it happen in the USA? - Tony Martin

Anthony Edward Martin (born 1944) is a farmer from Norfolk, England, who in 1999 killed one burglar, and wounded another, who had invaded his home. He was subsequently convicted of murder. As a result, he became a cause célèbre for some, and polarized opinions in the UK.[1]

Burglary and shooting

In 1999 Martin was living in an isolated farmhouse in Emneth Hungate, Norfolk. He claimed to have been burgled several times, losing £6,000 worth of furniture. Martin also complained about police inaction over the burglaries. Police sources, however, have expressed doubts that all these incidents took place.

On the night of 20 August 1999, two burglars - Brendon Fearon, 29, and Fred Barras, 16 – entered Martin’s home. When confronted, they attempted to flee through a window, but were shot by Martin - Fearon in the leg, and Barras in the back. Fearon was able to leave and obtain aid from a couple that lived near the house. He was then taken into hospital, where he was treated. Martin subsequently left the farm and fled to his mother's house, where he hid the firearm. Later that evening, he arrived at a local inn and stayed for the night. Barras was later found dead on the grounds by a police dog.

Murder trial

On 23 August 1999, Martin was charged with the murder of Barras, the attempted murder of Fearon, "wounding with intent to cause injury" to Fearon, and "possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life".

The jury at the trial were told that they had the option of returning a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder, if they thought that Martin "did not intend to kill or cause serious bodily harm".[4] However, they found Martin guilty of murder by a 10 to 2 majority.[5]

He was sentenced to life in prison, the mandatory sentence for murder under English law.


An appeal was considered in October 2001 by three senior judges. Submissions by the defense that Martin had fired in self defense were rejected by the appeal court. However, on this occasion the defense submitted evidence that Martin suffered paranoid personality disorder specifically directed at anyone intruding into his home. (I think I have that too!) This submission was accepted by the Court of Appeal and, on the grounds of diminished responsibility, Martin's murder conviction was replaced by manslaughter carrying a five year sentence, and his ten year sentence for wounding Fearon was cut to three years. These sentences were to run concurrently.

Parole applications and release

Martin was imprisoned in Highpoint Prison, Suffolk. When he became eligible for parole and early release, the Parole Board rejected his application without stating a reason. The chairman of the parole board, Sir David Hatch, in an interview with The Times described Martin as "a very dangerous man" who may still believe his action had been right. Martin challenged the decision in the High Court, where the parole board's decision was upheld. Probation officers on Martin's cases said there was an "unacceptable risk" that Martin might again react with excessive force if other would-be burglars intruded on his Norfolk farm.

On 28 July 2003, Martin was released after serving a total of three years of his five year sentence, the maximum period for which he could be held following good behavior.

Compensation claim

During 2003, Fearon applied for, and received, an estimated £5,000 of legal aid to sue Martin for loss of earnings due to the injury he sustained. However, the case was thrown into doubt when photographs were published in The Sun suggesting that Fearon's injuries were not as serious as had been claimed. Fearon later dropped the case when Martin agreed to drop a counter-claim.

It has been claimed that Fearon's supporters have put a bounty on Martin's head of several tens of thousands of pounds. Martin sold his version of the story to the Daily Mirror for a reputed sum of £125,000.

Tony Martin (farmer) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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