Politics & Policy

Burglar-Protection Racket

Why you really don't want someone to break into your house.

Let me tell it just as it happened in merrie England. It is nighttime August 22, 1999, in Norfolk. Way off in the boonies is a farm owned by a reputable citizen, named Tony Martin, 57. He hears prowlers moving around his farmhouse. He grabs his shotgun, surprises three burglars and fires. One burglar killed, one wounded, the third gets away. Nobody argues the facts.

Background: The British Home Office reports that between 1996 and 2000 at least 66 householders were killed by burglars. Recent statistics are not available. Most of the victims were elderly.

Result: Martin, the victim of an attempted burglary, is arrested and charged with premeditated murder. The presiding judge orders the jury to find Martin guilty of murder, no extenuating circumstances. British law does not permit lethal force in defense of one’s person or property, says the judge. Martin is sentenced to life in prison. Case is appealed. Higher court reduces crime to manslaughter and the sentence to five years. Martin is sent to prison where he remains.

Previous history: The burglars have long records for violent crimes and all have served time. Burglar Fred Barras. 29 convictions, including assault, fraud and theft. Shot dead by Martin. On the burglar’s body is found a bail notice having been accused of another theft. Burglar Fred Bearon, 33 convictions, including assaults, burglary, and theft. Burglar Darran Bark, 52 convictions, five for assault and 20 for theft. It is safe to call them career criminals.

Burglar Fearon, 32, whom Victim Martin wounded during the break-in, is suing the farmer for 50,000 pounds ($80,000). Fearon has received $12,000, according to the National Post, in legal aid to sue the imprisoned Martin. Plus he has also been granted the right to appear at Martin’s parole hearing and offer his views on whether the farmer ought to be granted parole.

Martin is being denied parole because he is unrepentant and refuses to declare that in case of another burglary he wouldn’t defend himself with a shotgun. As the National Post reported, government prosecutors told a London court last week that the Crown opposed Martin’s release on parole because burglars are “members of the public [who] need protection” from homeowners like Martin “even whilst committing their offenses.”

I’m not making any of this up. You can find it on the BBC website.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for the Washington Times.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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