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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
Should burglars have the right to sue?
Brendon Fearon, who was shot as he attempted to burgle Tony Martin's home.
Burglar Brendon Fearon has won the right to sue the farmer whose home he was breaking into.

Farmer Tony Martin shot at the two men forcing entry into his remote Norfolk farmhouse, injuring Mr Fearon and killing his 16-year-old accomplice.

While Mr Martin is serving a five-year manslaughter sentence, Mr Fearon plans to sue him for a reported 15,000, claiming his leg injuries have affected his ability to enjoy sex and martial arts.

District Judge Oliver said a full hearing would consider what rights a householder has to protect their property and whether a burglar can be deemed to be outside the law.

What do you make of the ruling that a burglar can sue for injuries sustained in a burglary? How far should protection of property rights go?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

Mr Fearon should have considered the risks when he and his colleague made the cowardly decision to attack the property of a man who was known to be eccentric, vulnerable and scared. Tony Martin is paying for his actions and will continue to do so for the remainder of his life - particularly in light of death threats made against him. It would make a nonsense of the law to compensate a career criminal like Fearon and would set a terrible precedent. There should never be compensation for injuries sustained during the commission of a crime.
Jake S, UK

The only reason Brendon Fearon has the right to sue Tony Martin is because Mr Martin committed a crime against him. People seem to forget that Tony Martin was convicted by a jury of twelve people who were sure of his guilt. And you can't blame the judges for that!
Rob Griffiths, Bournemouth, UK

Fearon is allowed to sue with thanks to the laughable Human Rights Act. The Human Rights Act should be amended so that criminals cannot use it to their advantage.
David Jackson, UK

The criminals should have no come back whatsoever
Alastair Stevens, Suffolk UK
As far as I'm concerned, crime should be seen as declaring war on society. If you commit any crime, you lose the rights that civil society gives you. That doesn't mean we should intentionally murder burglars; but if they get injured or killed by victims trying to defend their property, then tough luck. The criminals should have no come back whatsoever.
Alastair Stevens, Suffolk UK

Would the people who made the laws allowing the likes of Brendon Fearon to sue their victims still feel that they should have this right if it was their homes that had been burgled?
Lisa, England

It has already been judged that Mr Martin was wrong to shoot at the burglars - and given that, the permission to sue would seem inevitable. I'm not familiar with the details of the case, but in principal, if someone shoots someone while they are not themselves in personal danger, then they must face the legal consequences. If they do feel themselves to be in danger then there may well be justification for using a gun. People commit crimes for all sorts of reasons and we can't just say it's ok for them to be shot at!
Mark Holtz, England

It seems that Tony Martin was forced to defend his property because the police hadn't responded to his pleas for help on previous occasions. If Martin loses his case maybe he should sue the police for causing him to commit murder. (Only joking - well half joking!)
Nina Keay, UK

How much are the lawyers making from this legal action? Maybe we should elect our court officials and then they might serve justice? In my view, they just look after their own pockets, criminals, and bleeding heart liberals here.
Mike Smith, UK

Imagine if burglars are allowed to sue: Insurance premiums would clearly rise. Can victims of burglars sue for damage, violence or feeling threatened?
Dean Johnstone, UK

He has the right to sue but please don't use my taxes to pay for it
Isabel B, England
Sure you can say he has the right to sue but please don't use my taxes to pay for it. It's adding insult to injury to say if I defend the property I work hard for I then have to compensate anyone who tries to take it from me.
Isabel B, England

If burglars are to be allowed to sue for injuries sustained while pursuing their profession, perhaps the government should go the whole way and legitimise burglary completely. Offer school-leavers a two-year course at college and an exercise programme to keep them supple. A highly trained, highly motivated group of thieves are less likely to injure themselves, thereby saving taxpayers from having to compensate them for industrial injuries.
Jason Kennedy, UK

For career burglars who have hardly worked a day in their lives, this action is just a way of legally performing another "job". Shame to the courts! I certainly wouldn't think twice about confronting a burglar, even if it meant me going to jail for protecting my family.
Andy, UK

As a recent burglary victim, I know how much it can affect your (and your family's) outlook on life. It's not only the crime itself, it's the anguish and fear it brings with it. To have these rogues playing the legal system for their own material ends seems hypocritical in the extreme.
Rory Solley, UK

Of course everyone has the right to defend their house, but sometimes they can become excessively violent. Remember the case of a man stabbing a burglar 31 times.
Matthew, United Kingdom

It seems homeowners should hide while giving the burglar free run of their property
Colin, UK
It seems that this judge is saying homeowners should hide and pray for their own safety, while giving the burglar free run of their private property.
Colin, UK

This will be a serious test of British justice. In an ideal situation the judge will throw this case out. Unfortunately I fear that Mr Fearon may end up gaining financially for his decision to break the law.
Giles Wallwork, UK

Like it or not, you don't have the right to kill/injure someone who robs you. No material possessions are worth more than a human life. Consider the unfortunate trends in the US where people have been shot simply for ringing a door bell and asking for directions. We have to learn to put aside fear and accept that some will take advantage of our trust.

I don't think there is any doubt now that judges have lost touch with reality!
Alan, UK

Does the murderer get the right to sue because the victim scratched his face? Don't our courts have better things to do?
Peter Leeson, United Kingdom

Hopefully Mr Martin can counter-sue
Richard, England
Whilst I don't agree with excessive violence, hopefully Mr Martin can counter-sue on a wide range of issues - having his home broken into for starters.
Richard, England

Well, does the legal profession really want lowlifes such as your (below-)average thief getting incentives for their crimes? This case should be laughed out of court and the remainder of Mr Martin's sentence put onto Mr Fearon's head.
Richard Blake-Reed, Bath, UK

On the one hand, burglars must have some legal rights, otherwise people could simply lure others into their home and kill them. But I don't understand why the law can't be open to interpretation in different cases. The law is there to do what's right, not to enforce what's wrong. Clearly, allowing this burglar to sue is wrong. Why, then, can't the judge stop him?
Ed, UK

If a burglar gets injured while on my property uninvited, hard luck. Householders have a right to defend themselves against possibly violent intruders and not being experts in weapons or unarmed combat they may do more damage than they meant to - after all, they can't risk the burglar getting and hitting or shooting them. His fault; he wasn't asked in!
Mrs S M Burns, Wales

Definitely not. Why should one who so freely breaks the law expect to be protected by it?

Burglars should not have the right to sue. The case mentioned here is utterly insane. Are we trying to promote burglary?
Shamil Haroon, UK



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