Saturday, May 11, 2013

Farmer Tony Martin Doesn't Kill Burglars Anymore


The London Evening Standard
A farmer who became a household name after he was jailed for shooting dead a burglar at his home today revealed he had confronted another intruder.

Tony Martin, 67, who was jailed for killing teenager Fred Barras in 1999, said he caught a burglar in the act near an outbuilding at his property in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, yesterday.

He said he confronted the would-be thief who drove off, but decided against trying to stop him, adding: “I couldn’t face going through all that again.”

He told Sky News: “There were weapons inside the shed so, if I had wanted to fight him off, I could have.

“I wished I had but, after everything I’ve been through in the past, I just couldn’t face all that hassle again.

“It isn’t the first time it’s happened since I’ve been out of prison - it’s happened two or three times.
“I haven’t changed my views about what happened in 1999 but the whole experience has made me lose faith in the system and I didn’t want to be made out as the criminal again.”

The gun-rights fanatics love to blow this one up into something more than it is.  What's missing in the UK is the presumption that anyone breaking into your house is demonstrating lethal threat by the very fact of breaking in.

The Castle Doctrine in its many forms is based on the worst possible case.  A burglar COULD intend to kill or harm therefore all burglars are eligible for immediate execution.  Taken on a case by case basis, as with Mr. Martin in 1999, it's obvious that lethal threat is often not operative.

It's telling that in the case Mr. Martin is lamenting about, he was able to chase the burglar away without killing him.

If he wants to be able to kill people on the slightest pretext and get away with it, he should move to Georgia in the US.

What's your opinion?  Please leave a comment.


  1. You gun owners are freaks who wait feverishly for the day which you may use your deadly toys on human targets and get away with the depraved acts of your dreams.

    Social undesirables are not welcome anywhere.

    1. Some gun owners are like that, yes.

    2. There being 100,000,000 of us or more, it's a wonder you're still alive.

    3. I've told you before, you have no right to claim kinship with the 100M. Most of them think you're a fanatic and wouldn't want anything to do with you.

  2. Mike,

    The reason the law has a presumption that the criminal breaking into a home has ill intent is because by the time you find out that they want to harm you, for certain, it is because they're trying to harm you. It can be too late to stop them at that point, especially in Britain where, if you confront them with a weapon, but only plan to fire if they show hostility, you will be charged with brandishing a weapon and probably get as much or more of a sentence as they get for breaking in.

    As for the case by case application of the law in Britain, they have some bizarre interpretations of what constitutes "reasonable force." There was a case in the 90's where a shop was being held up by criminals using (if memory serves) whole and broken wine bottles. A customer pulled a pocket knife out, threatened the criminals, and drove them out. The police arrested and charged him because he used potentially lethal force when it wasn't required.

    More recently, a lady was in her kitchen when some youths were breaking into her garden shed. She stayed in the kitchen, yelled at them through the window, and held up a kitchen knife. They ran away. When the cops came, she told them what happened, and they let her off with a warning that if she brandished a knife in similar circumstances again, they would arrest her for unlawful use of a weapon.

    Another case involved an Immigrant family who was burgled, tied up in their living room, and threatened. The father got loose, grabbed something heavy and started beating up one of the attackers, and then chased another out into the street with a pipe/fire poker/some kind of cudgel of opportunity that I can't remember. He was charged with excessive use of force. This caused an outcry in the neighborhood, but I can't remember if I heard about the resolution of the case.

    I can fully understand the arguments for using only the appropriate level of force, and truly excessive uses of force should be punished, but the Brits have taken the concept as far or further in the opposite direction of what's appropriate as the most lenient jurisdiction you could find in the states.

    Heck, in Britain, their weapons laws forbid everything from guns and knives to defensive batons, tazers, and all the way down to the mace you see on keychains in many parts of the U.S. (Of course, some places here, like NY, also ban even pepper spray.) When you leave people with a loud whistle and running away, you've gone WAY too far in weapon control.

    1. Let's say the UK is on the opposite end of the spectrum as the US. I think we agree so far, right. I think it's a simple choice to select the one which preserves the most life. Shooting every burglar dead, like the gun rights extremists in The States want, is wrong.

    2. Please see my comments about an appropriate application of laws against excessive force, and my comment on the warning shot post you made after this one.

      I understand that there is a place for shooting and a place for holding fire. Most other people understand this too. The law in most states is that you can use lethal force to defend your life if you reasonably felt that you or another were in danger of losing your life or sustaining grave bodily injury. Details and wording of that standard varies from state to state.

      Juries are the final arbiter of whether your belief in such danger was justified, but cops and prosecutors often make calls on that topic based on their experience--if they think a jury would find the fear reasonable, they don't bother charging to save money and time to prosecute other cases.

      As for the stand your ground laws and castle doctrine laws, they create a presumption that can be rebutted. If you're car is gone, but you're still home, a junkie breaks into your house in broad daylight thinking it's unoccupied, is confronted by you carrying a gun (which would be wise since you don't know his intentions yet), turns to run, and you shoot him in the back, the castle doctrine is not going to save you. Nor should it.

      If your car is outside, and someone breaks in at 2:00AM when it's safe to assume you're in the house asleep, it's pretty safe to assume that even if he doesn't want to kill you, he's the type that wouldn't mind killing you to ensure the success of his burglary, and most juries will grant that you had reasonable cause to fear for your life.

      Situations between these two are where the line lies, and that's why we have jury trials.

    3. Gun rights advocates do not want to shoot them all dead. We just prefer the victims have the tools necessary to protect themselves and that they do not have to take any chances. A burglar may or may not want to harm those in the house, but why should it be the innocent that have to bear the risk of waiting to find out the intruders intentions? If they can be scared away with the threat of force, then that's great. But the victims should not have to bear any more risk to find out if that is indeed the case.

    4. What percentage of burglers get shot dead, Mike?

  3. Mikeb, did you notice his statement at the end of what you quoted? He's lost faith in the system. Did you also notice that he's had repeated break ins?

    This is what gun control leads to--rampant criminal acts that the police can't stop, and good citizens punished for trying to defend themselves and their property. It also leads good citizens to disrespect the law. Brilliant strategy, that.

    1. Good citizens don't shoot burglars dead when it's not necessary, except in The States, of course.

    2. I agree that good citizens only use lethal force when it's necessary. The problem here is that your assessment of necessary is way off.

  4. Wow, Tennessean seriously misstates the law of self-defence.

    First off, the statement that the "Brits have taken the concept as far or further in the opposite direction of what's appropriate" is inaccurate.

    It is not the Brits and the rest of the world who have changed the direction of the doctrine of self-defence, but the United States. The law of self-defence at the time of the Constitution was the same as it is now in other common law jurisdictions: That is the use of deadly force was the absolute last resort and only acceptable if there was no other option.

    Literally, one needed to have their back to the wall with no lesser option.

    see this post for a discussion of Blackstone's description of the Common Law doctrine of self-defence.

    Likewise, "the stand your ground laws" and "castle doctrine laws" he mentions do create a "rebuttable" defence.

    HOWEVER, as the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Russell Davis cases demonstrated it takes quite a bit of evidence before the presumption is "rebutted".

    As the saying goes "murder is an aggravated assault case without a witness" since the victim is dead and cannot testify.

    We only have the word of the person who uses the defence that he was somehow in danger.

    In addition, the level needed to claim these defences is far lower than that in other common law jurisdictions. For example, as that the other person does not have a deadly weapon before this doctrine can be invoked.

    As for Jim's comment about preferring "the victims to have the tools necessary to protect themselves and that they do not have to take any chances."

    Who exactly is the victim if one allows for extra-judicial killing?

    Likewise, how can one talk about a "right to life" when property is far more valuable than life in your society?

    I seriously doubt that any of you will understand the ramifications of what I have said.

    Not to mention that this is far more of a complex issue than this post lets on (for example, Martin did not legally own the weapon in question and self-defence is not a reason for firearms ownership in other common law countries).

    1. Thanks, Laci, for reminding us why it's good to be in America.

    2. Laci,

      I gave a general statement of self defense in the United States, not in the rest of the world. If I made a mistake in my statement of it, you did not show what it was.

      Much of the rest of your post neglects arguing against what I said and argues against strawmen I didn't postulate. You close with a couple of questions aiming to be profound, followed by an insult that we couldn't possibly understand your questions. (I assume your comment about property value and the "right to life" was meant to jab at how people don't value life enough to give up a larger share of their property to pay for socialized medicine or some similar distraction from this discussion of the criminal law.)

      The time you address something closest to what I was discussing is your comments about how much it takes to rebut the defense. This may be a problem, but I have yet to see any proof of a widespread issue with this. Still, how would you suggest fixing that problem that you perceive? Is there some language that you think would be able to draw better limits delineating proper and improper use of force in self defense?

    3. "Who exactly is the victim if one allows for extra-judicial killing?"
      The problem with your assertion is that it puts the homeowner at a distinct disadvantage. At what point is a homeowner allowed to use deadly force in what is often referred to as a "hot burglary", where a criminal enters a residence knowing that the owners are present?
      The only person who really knows for sure is the criminal. The result of the prevelance of guns in the US is that this country has a much lower incidence of these "hot burglaries", or a better term would be home invasion than the UK.

    4. In Laci's view, a criminal who breaks into someone's home is better than a good citizen who owns the home. The former can be made dependent on the state, especially if he kills the latter, whereas a good citizen always has a pesky measure of independent choice.

    5. Laci, the victim is the homeowner whose house is being broken into. Period. A burglar has already decided to accept the risks of violating another persons home, and therefore must accept the potential consequences.

  5. "A burglar COULD intend to kill or harm therefore all burglars are eligible for immediate execution."

    You want to assume the best of people who are committing a felony? Be my guest. Me? I'm not going to.

  6. Here's a video that says that perhaps the Brits are waking up to the folly of gun control.]