Rough Justice

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

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