Rough Justice

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Pity
poor Tony Martin as he languishes in jail surrounded by those whom
the British State was meant to protect him from. Some would say
he is a political prisoner of political correctness as he completes
two years of a five-year sentence for manslaughter and is up for
parole in September. What was his crime? Shooting a couple of burglars
in self-defence who were caught one night in his darkened farmhouse.
One died and the other was wounded in the legs and Martin was sent
down for life for murder,
but was later commuted to manslaughter. That the manslaughter appeal
had to be won on the grounds of diminished responsibilities says
much of modern justice today.

This
tragic tale of judicial blindness actually began in May 1999 several
months before the shooting incident as Tony Martin experienced yet
another burglary to his farm. Being a rural setting, one could not
rely very well on the police response time, let alone a successful
prosecution. In other words, you were on your own with whatever
means of defence you had.

In
response to that latest attack on his person and property, he bought
a pump-action shotgun. This was the first clash with the Law for
shotguns were banned here several years ago. This act alone added
twelve months to his eventual sentence. Three months later came
the fateful conflict when he confronted two men in his house one
night on the 20th August. Fred Barras was killed whilst his accomplice,
Brendon Fearon, received shotgun wounds to the legs. Barras, though
a mere 16 years old, was an incorrigible criminal who had 28 court
convictions and was currently out on bail when he met his death.

What
actually happened was always going to be one man’s word against
another but police forensics would supply some details. Martin confronted
the intruders in a darkened room from his stairs. This was a house
lit by very few light bulbs and the place was in general darkness.
Fearon claimed that they thought that the house was derelict but
had heard there were antiques inside. When they entered the grounds,
they further claimed that Martin’s Rotweiller guard dogs chased
them inside.

Once
inside, and on the lookout for the property of others, Barras was
confronted and died from a gunshot wound to the back of the chest.
A shot to the back would indicate retreat, but Tony Martin claimed
he was blinded by their torchlight when he came downstairs and opened
fire in this vulnerable condition. Fearon counter-claimed that Martin
pursued them downstairs before firing but forensics only found spent
cartridge material on the steps. Martin's testimony appeared to
be more trustworthy than the strange contortions of Fearon.

Barras
stumbled and fell through the window into the garden undergrowth
whilst Fearon crawled off to raise the alarm with neighbours. It
is to be noted that Fearon received wounds to both legs. If Tony
Martin was so intent on murder as the prosecution claimed, it is
highly unlikely Fearon would have managed to crawl outside to safety
with two wounded legs. Nevertheless, eight months after his arrest,
Martin was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

It
is to be noted that young Barras came from a criminal family; even
his grandmother had a conviction. Indeed, after the grieving process
had ended for his son, Fred Barras senior took part in the attempted
armed robbery of a warehouse. For this he got 14 years in jail.
In the eyes of the Law, Fred Barras senior and Tony Martin were
equally culpable when it came to possession of firearms. In fact,
going by the sentences handed out, Martin was deemed the greater
offender.

Going
back to Martin's trial, one of the jury allegedly complained of
threats whilst others complained of being psychologically stared
at by certain members of the public gallery during the trial. A
reputed 60,000 bounty was also placed on Martin’s head as the criminal
class worked its work and an air of intimidation generally hung
over the court as it had done over Tony Martin during those successive
invasions of privacy.

Ultimately,
Brendon Fearon was sentenced to three years jail for burglary but
was released on parole having served less than half his sentence.
It seems criminals rarely serve their full tariffs these days. He
pledged to go straight after his life of crime which consisted of
33 convictions including assaults, burglary and 18 offences of theft.

But
with re-offending always a high risk with such people, one wonders
how he was going to finance his new repentant lifestyle? The answer
may come in his successful application last week to use State-funded
legal expenses to insanely sue Tony Martin for up to 50,000 by
claiming assault and trespass against his person. Such a State-backed
action carries no financial risk to the plaintiff whatsoever for
it is a “no-win, no-fee” situation – Fearon cannot lose either way.

In
a bitter twist of irony, it seems that Tony Martin may yet have
to hand his house over to the criminal to pay these unnatural damages.
The house he fought so fiercely to defend from that same criminal
in the first place.

What
can we say of the main characters in this tragic play? Mr. Martin
was a man let down badly by the State. With rural police services
30 minutes away and having suffered at burglars’ hands on several
occasions, this was a man reduced to a siege mentality. Denuded
of the right to bear arms, Mr. Martin was left with the unwelcome
conundrum of how to defend himself against several potential intruders
younger and stronger than himself.

In
the end, he played the libertarian, rebelled against Statism and
went to face his potential assailants fully armed. Whether he would
have suffered any harm at the intruders’ hands is not a question
to be asked. Neither is it to be asked by prosecutors in the cool
light of day how accurate a terrified man’s assessment is when faced
by danger. Neither is it to be asked how accurate the gunshots should
be in a darkened room faced with potential murderers. When danger
is perceived to arise, the violated must strike the first blow and
strike it well.

And
though the life of one man is tragically cut short, we can say that
not only Tony Martin but also Fred Barras was let down by the State.
Martin was let down in that the State had miserably failed to stop
the criminal career of men who each carried dozens of convictions
prior to that doleful night. Barras was let down in that failing
to curtail his thieving career with more efficient sanctions, he
would eventually come to that night where one person said, “enough
is enough”.

How
does one temper natural justice with unnatural excess? The right
to self-defence is as old as civilisation itself. In the Old Testament,
it is declared that “If a thief be found breaking up, and be
smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.”
It is to be noted that the word “breaking up” merely implies
unlawful entry and not even physical threat whilst the word “smitten”
does not set a limit on the type of weapon to be used. Thus, we
ascertain that the right to life and property was so inviolate in
ancient times that even life could be extinguished in the defence
of them.

Criminal
rights advocates may say such a law was a carte blanche for any
burglar to be shot dead unconditionally on trespassing. Not really,
witness testimony could establish whether there was no need to exercise
self-defence (e.g. the thief was seen to be halfway across a field
in broad daylight when he was gunned down). Moreover, it is not
the natural inclination of men to take life at the drop of a hat,
this was a law primarily designed for life taken unintentionally
but in the cause of self-defence. The fact that the Law, in the
absence of witnesses, would give the benefit of the doubt to the
property owner would have been a powerful incentive not to attempt
burglary.

So
the slide of Statist justice Western-style continues. The growing
criminal sector continues to walk the countryside and streets with
impunity. Young and old alike rebel against natural authority as
egalitarian nonsense about empowerment for the underprivileged unwittingly
provides the weapons for society's decay. Punishments in violation
of natural justice continue to be doled out with the deterrent force
of a wet sponge and justice rolls not like a mighty river but like
a dripping faucet.

As
ever, when the State fails to provide, people take their own action
in the protection of themselves and loved ones. Vigilante groups
spring up, neighbourhood watches are instituted and ultimately people
resort to means forbidden by their impotent lawmakers.

When State Welfare does begin to unravel, one thing must needs be
ditched or reformed first and that is State Justice. When the welfare
and criminal class see their free money cut off, there will be such
a rise in crime fuelled by decades of amoralistic teaching in the
classroom that only locally and swiftly applied justice will do
to arrest the plague. In that day, the government had better legalise
firearms quickly or the jails will not hold the army of Tony Martins
that will arise in that troubled time.

(For
those interested, Tony Martin has a support website here.)

July
11 ,
2002

Roland
Watson [send him
mail
] writes from Edinburgh, Scotland. He now runs his own Christian
libertarian blog
.

Roland
Watson Archives

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