Tony Martin (farmer)
Martin was convicted of murder, later reduced to manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility, and served three years in prison, having been denied parole. He has since lived at a secret address, and there are reports of a substantial price on his head from the dead man's family and friends, who are members of the Traveller community.
Burglary and shooting
In 1999, Martin, a bachelor, was living alone at his farmhouse in Emneth Hungate, Norfolk, nicknamed Bleak House, which he inherited at age 35 from his uncle. He claimed to have been burgled a total of ten times, losing £6,000 worth of furniture. Police sources say they are not sure that all the incidents took place. Martin also complained about police inaction over the burglaries and claimed that multiple items and furniture were stolen such as dinnerware and a grandfather clock. Martin had equipped himself with an illegally-held pump-action Winchester Model 1300 12 bore shotgun which he claimed to have found. Martin had his shotgun certificate revoked in 1994 after he found a man scrumping for apples in his orchard and shot a hole in the back of his vehicle. Pump-action shotguns with a magazine capacity above 2 are illegal to hold on a Shotgun Certificate however, and can only be held with a Firearms Certificate.
On the night of 20 August 1999, two burglars – Brendon Fearon, 29, and Fred Barras, 16 – broke into Martin's house. Shooting downwards in the dark, with his shotgun, loaded with birdshot, Martin evidentially shot three times towards the intruders (once when they were in the stairwell and twice more when they were trying to flee through the window of an adjacent ground floor room). Barras was hit - fatally - in the back and both sustained gunshot injuries to their legs. Both escaped through the window but Barras died at the scene. Martin claimed that he opened fire after being woken when the intruders smashed a window. But his claim that he had shot at them from halfway down the stairs was disproved by scientific evidence that showed he must have fired his shotgun from the doorway of a downstairs room. The prosecution accused him of lying in wait for the burglars and opening fire without warning from close range, in retribution for previous break-ins at his home.
On 10 January 2000, Fearon and Darren Bark, 33 (who had acted as the getaway driver), both from Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, admitted to conspiring to burgle Martin's farmhouse. Fearon was sentenced to 36 months in prison, and Bark to 30 months (with an additional 12 months arising from previous offences). Fearon was released on 10 August 2001. Fred Barras, the dead youth, had accumulated a lengthy criminal record, having been arrested 29 times by the time of his death at the age of 16, and had been sentenced to two months in a young offenders' institution for assaulting a policeman, theft and being drunk and disorderly. On the night he was killed, the teenager had just been released on bail after being accused of stealing garden furniture. Barras' grandmother, Mary Dolan, stated: "It's not fair that the farmer has got all the money and he is the one that took Fred away."
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". Martin did not hold a valid Shotgun Certificate (licence), let alone the more restrictive Firearms Certificate he would have needed to possess the high-capacity pump-action Winchester shotgun.
English law permits one person to kill another in self-defence only if the person defending him or herself uses no more than "reasonable force"; it is the responsibility of the jury to determine whether or not an unreasonable amount of force was used. 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". However, the jurors found Martin guilty of murder by a 10 to 2 majority.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommended minimum term to serve of 9 years, reduced to 8 years by the Lord Chief Justice.
An appeal was considered in October 2001 by three senior judges headed by Lord Woolf, LCJ. Submissions by the defence that Martin had fired in his own defence were rejected by the appeal court. On this occasion the defence also submitted evidence that Martin was diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder exacerbated by depression and that his paranoia was specifically directed at anyone intruding into his home. 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 reduced 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 in January 2003, 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 three years of his five-year sentence, the maximum period for which he could be held following good behaviour.
During 2003, Fearon applied for, and received, an estimated £5,000 of legal aid to sue Martin for loss of earnings due to the injuries he had sustained. However, the case was thrown into doubt when photographs were published in The Sun, showing him "cycling and climbing with little apparent difficulty" suggesting that Fearon's injuries were not as serious as had been claimed. While the case was pending, Fearon was recalled to jail after being charged with the theft of a vehicle while on probation on a conviction for dealing heroin. Fearon later dropped the case when Martin agreed to drop a counter-claim. Tens of thousands of pounds of public money had been spent on the case.
Nick Makin, Martin's solicitor, said: "It is appalling that the family of someone who has a criminal record for burglary and assault should attempt to claim any damages of criminal injury when he was shot while burgling the dwelling of an innocent person... It is also appalling that they may get legal aid while his victim is in prison and patently unable to work and equally cannot get legal aid... There is something wrong and perverse with our legal system that it permits this."
Threats to Tony Martin's life
The BBC reported in 2003 that Fearon's supporters put a bounty on Martin's head of several tens of thousands of pounds. In July 2003 The Daily Telegraph reported that a cousin of Barras had said that a £60,000 bounty had been put on Martin's head.
£125,000 payment to Martin
In October 2003, The Daily Mirror paid Martin £125,000 for an exclusive interview on his release from prison. After investigation, the Press Complaints Commission ruled that the payment was justified and in the public interest because Martin "had a unique insight into an issue of great public concern".
Since his release Martin has appeared on the platform of the United Kingdom Independence Party and was the guest-of-honour at the Traditional Britain Group's Annual Dinner at Simpson's-in-the-Strand on 7 November 2003. Martin said himself that he had attended meetings of the National Front in Norfolk, and later went on to endorse the British National Party.
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- Saunders, J. (2001), Tony Martin and the Bleak House Tragedy, True Crime Library/Forum Press, ISBN 1-874358-37-0, ISBN 978-1-874358-37-4.
- Castle doctrine
- Defence of property
- Joe Horn shooting controversy
- Self-defence in English law
- Bernhard Goetz
- Death of John Ward
- Munir Hussain and victims' rights
- Katko v. Briney
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- Real Crime, ITV1
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- Shotgun#Legal issues
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- Robert Vanderbeck (2003) An analysis of media coverage of the Tony Martin affair, with particular attention to representations of Roma and Irish Travellers.