Lawyer crticises Parole Board

BURGALRS are entitled to the protection of the law if "lethal force" is threatened against them, the Tony Martin hearing at the High Court.The rights of those intending to commit crime were defended yesterday by the Parole Board as its lawyers argued that the jailed Norfolk farmer who fatally shot a burglar posed an "unacceptable risk' and should not be released early.

BURGALRS are entitled to the protection of the law if "lethal force" is threatened against them, the Tony Martin hearing at the High Court.

The rights of those intending to commit crime were defended yesterday by the Parole Board as its lawyers argued that the jailed Norfolk farmer who fatally shot a burglar posed an "unacceptable risk' and should not be released early.

A ruling in the case will be given this afternoon.

Pushpinder Saini, appearing for the Board, argued: "Even if only those who came on to 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 were entitled to protection.


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"Indeed, if anything, it would have been irrational for the Board to ignore the risks to such persons.'

But Bitu Bhalla, appearing for Martin, said the farmer was a victim of "unfairness and injustice' when the Parole Board refused his plea for early release in January.

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He also challenged the Board's decision in February not to review its initial decision, despite the disclosure of psychological reports not seen earlier which suggested that it was safe to release him.

A "secret document' which supported his case had also not been disclosed to the farmer and his lawyers.

During the hearing, Mr Bhalla argued there was more chance of winning the lottery than of Martin posing any serious future risk.

He attacked as inappropriate the Board's decision to use the case as a platform for setting out its position on "burglars' rights' in general terms.

The Board had rejected Martin's argument that the risk he posed was minimal and that it was "acceptable' for him to be released early.

Mr Saini said: "It amounts to an assertion that those who may commit unlawful acts on the claimant's property are fair game for him and that such persons are not members of the public who are entitled to protection from risk.'

The Board had ruled in January that Martin was not eligible for early release after considering reports that he showed no contrition for shooting 16-year-old Fred Barras, of Newark, Nottinghamshire, when he broke into Martin's remote Norfolk farmhouse in August 1999 with accomplice Brendon Fearon, 33, also from Newark.

Fearon was shot in the leg by Martin, who was convicted of murdering Barras and wounding Fearon by a jury at Norwich Crown Court.

He received an automatic life sentence but the murder conviction was reduced to manslaughter and the sentence to five years by the Court of Appeal in October 2001.

Martin, from Emneth Hungate, Norfolk, was said to be "extremely angry' at failure to win his freedom early before the Parole Board.

Martin is due to leave prison on July 28 this year after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

Mr Bhalla told Mr Justice Maurice Kay that Martin was "not a nutter' who regarded burglars as "fair game'.

He was entitled to regard "an Englishman's home as his castle' and take the necessary steps to protect himself and his property, provided they were lawful.

Mr Bhalla asked: "Has the Parole Board reached the situation where it is regarded as a criticism that an Englishman's home is his castle?'

He suggested that was absurd, adding: "There is nothing wrong in an Englishman believing his home is his castle, and most good thinking people believe the same.'

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