It has been ten years since an old man named Tony Martin awoke in his remote Norfolk farmhouse and realised that a gang of professional thieves were breaking into his farmhouse. Old, sick, alone but valiant, Martin reached for his only weapon, an old shotgun, and discharged it at the thieves. By pure luck he injured one of them fatally and the others fled.
Martin had been burgled repeatedly, and the police had done nothing. That night Norfolk Constabulary were busy elsewhere, nicking motorists for minor traffic offences on the King’s Lynn bypass. When at last they did arrive, they promptly arrested Tony Martin and charged him with murder. He was put on trial, and the liberal establishment threw the book at him. But a public outcry ensured that he was convicted only of manslaughter.
But the spite did not end there. Most criminals would be released after serving half their sentence. But Martin, brave to the last, refused to play the system and pretend remorse that he did not feel and that most of the country did not consider appropriate. Meanwhile the media ran a campaign to blacken his name. He was released after serving two-thirds of his sentence, when criminals are automatically released.
His assailants, of course, had been released long since and had committed a series of further crimes.
Martin has since been forgotten, but his case epitomises the feeling of most ordinary Britons, that the police, the courts, the law and the prison system are unjust and unfair and biased against them. Tender and generous to a fault towards the villain, especially if coloured or otherwise favoured by the establishment, these institutions showed no mercy to a confused old man defending himself.
Today is the anniversary of this event, and the Daily Mail has an interview with Tony Martin. He has never been able to go home, or to disclose his whereabouts. As he remarks, “nothing has changed.” The same events could happen today.
This is not a political blog, and will not become one. But I see myself in Tony Martin, as so many ordinary people do. While he remains unpardoned, and uncompensated, none of us can have any confidence in the criminal justice system.