We Must Retain the Right to Self Defence
Tony Martin will, of course, be finally judged by the jury. But its worth pointing out, to that potential jury, that the law of the land is unlikely to be on his side. The facts of the case have yet to come out, but already we know that he lived alone. That he'd been burgled not once but several times previously and that he was terrified - as most of us would be - by the prospect of meeting burglars on his return home. 

What does British law allow you to do in this horrendous situation? You can use so called "reasonable force". 

The question is, what constitutes reasonable force? And is shooting the intruder stepping beyond reason?

In an isolated farmhouse, I can't see how else I would have reacted. There were three burglars. If he'd tried attacking them with a baseball bat or pickaxe handle, what are the chances he'd have survived the attempt at defence? Not a lot. He wasn't a Giant Haystacks of a farmer. They'd have rolled over him and almost certainly left him for dead. 

At the very least that is a reasonable assumption for anyone in that position to make. So, given the choice, between staying within the law and dying, or stepping beyond it and living, how many would choose the first. I know I damn well wouldn't. I'd feel safe with nothing less than a gun and I'd make bloody sure they knew I meant it. 

The other thing he might have done, of course, is to call the police. And sat and watched as the house was ransacked. That might be sensible. After all the insurance would cover it, wouldn't it? But reasonable? Would you sit and watch while your house was turned over? Would the burglars have let you?

And the police had already let him down. Despite having repeated burglaries, the state has done nothing to improve his security. 

The only legitimate reason the state can profer against our being armed and permitted to defend ourselves is that, in return for this loss of freedom, they will offer us the same or better protection. In this respect the state has unquestionably and demonstrably already failed Tony Martin prior to this last invasion and that, in my view, gives him every right to defend himself - with whatever means he has at his disposal. 

It is the task of the jury in this case to ensure that the Law does not impede our fundamental rights. The judge will no doubt sum up with heavy emphasis on the so called excess of reasonable force. You may not know it, but you the jury have the power to reject every word the judge puts to you. If you feel the law is unnecessarily punitive and restrictive in this case, you can say so by acquitting the defendant regardless of the Judge's advice or even direction. He won't like it - but its true. 

Check out the famous 17th Century case of the Jury who acquitted William Penn (yes, he who later founded Pennsylvania but we won't hold that against him) of preaching other than the orthodox Christianity despite Penn's free admission of breach of the Law. The jury decided the Law was unreasonable and found him not guilty. The judge was so angry he imprisoned the jury in the Tower of London. Public Opinion forced him to release the 12 after a couple of weeks and ever since then it has been accepted that the verdict of the Jury is absolute and unquestionable. They do not have to explain their decision. They account to no one because, for the duration of the trial at least, they ARE "the people" and that, in a democracy, is as high as you get! 

So you - the jury - must tell the world - and particularly every potential burglar - that in at least this situation, shooting someone dead is NOT excessive force. Unless he was sitting there armed to the teeth like Rambo and just waiting for the opportunity to let loose, Tony Martin is most certainly not Guilty. 

Make that judgement and you can be reasonably certain that people living in isolated farmhouses at least, will be a little bit safer than they were before the 22nd of August.

Harry Stottle  23 August 1999