UK Court Refuses to Release Man Who Shot Burglar


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May 9, 2003, 06:45 AM
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UK Court Refuses to Release Man Who Shot Burglar

By Mike Wendling
CNSNews.com London Bureau Chief
May 08, 2003

London (CNSNews.com) - A farmer who shot to death a burglar and was later convicted of manslaughter had his parole request rejected Thursday by the British High Court.

Tony Martin was convicted in April 2000 in a case that sparked debate in Britain about firearms and the rights of landowners to defend their property.

After a two-day hearing, the court upheld a parole board ruling that Martin was likely to reoffend if released early.

In August 1999, 16-year-old Fred Barras and an accomplice broke into Martin's remote farmhouse in rural Norfolk in eastern England. Martin responded by opening fire with an illegally held shotgun.

The gun hadn't been registered with police as is required under legislation enacted after a school shooting in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996.

Martin was originally sentenced to life in prison, but the charges were later reduced to manslaughter on appeal. Martin was given a five-year prison term.

During the hearing earlier this week, lawyers for Martin claimed a secret psychological report compiled by the government indicated that their client was suitable for early release.

They also criticized the parole board for raising the issue of "burglars' rights" by asking if Martin was likely to use similar force against criminals in the future.

Martin's lawyer, Bitu Bhalla, said that the board shouldn't have submitted "arguments on the strategy for burglars generally.

"The burglar, if he decides to attack a householder, ought to be aware that if reasonable force is used against him, he will not get any protection," he said.

"There is nothing wrong with an Englishman believing his home is his castle, and most good-thinking people believe the same," Bhalla told the court.

But the board defended its decision not to release Martin in January of this year. Lawyer Pushpinder Saini argued: "Even if only those who came onto his property were the group at risk of the use of lethal force at the hands of Mr. Martin, it was not irrational for the board to consider such a group was entitled to protection."

The Conservative Party also criticized the parole board's arguments.

"There certainly seems to be an imbalance between the householder and burglar," said Tory home affairs spokesman Oliver Letwin.

Martin will now have to wait until July 28, when he becomes automatically eligible for parole.

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