Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
Forum 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
Monday, 1 May, 2000, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
How far should you go to protect your property?

Tony Martin clearly thought he was acting in self-defence when he shot at two burglars who entered his Norfolk farmhouse last August. He killed one of the intruders, 16-year-old Fred Barras. Yesterday a jury found him guilty of murder and he got a life sentence.

Some of Tony Martin's supporters claim that rural crime in the UK is on the increase and they feel vulnerable and exposed.

But does that mean people should take the law into their own hands in order to protect their property? Should we have the right to protect it, whatever the consequences? What do you think?


Your reaction

It's just insane that law is for and against the criminals and good law abiding citizens get nothing out of law and order. We might as well return to the Stone Age and live lawless. At least saves us taxes we are currently paying to keep the system going
Georginos Popodopulos, Cyprus



Anyone who suggests their material property has greater value than a human life is seriously inhuman.

Laura, UK
Mr. Martin's actions were those of an irrational man, and to that extent we must have some sympathy for him, whilst recognising the dangers inherent in firearms. But, when is ever a life equal to loss of property? Never. The loss of a young lad, however misguided he was, is a tragedy far greater than any burglary would be. Anyone who suggests their material property has greater value than a human life is seriously inhuman.
Laura, UK

I support Mr. Martin. The burglar got exactly what he deserved. Perhaps it is time for a public campaign to get Mr. Martin released with a full pardon.
John Atkins, Singapore

I don't understand the problem here. If someone is in your house and shouldn't be there, shooting them is a fair course of action. If they're killed, too bad. I've been burgled, and know the stress it causes, and the long-term upset. If I'd have had a gun and disturbed the intruders, I would have happily shot them dead. Burglars are nothing but scum. We have suffered too long with namby-pamby apologists.
Steve, France

As a US Citizen, I may perhaps cause some surprise by revealing my views: I believe that the jury system works correctly in most cases, and that the verdict should always indicate that all is not as simple as the headlines make it appear. Given a jury verdict, even in those cases which seem to fly against common sense and logic, one's initial reaction must first be that the jury acted on evidence beyond the superficial, publicly reported pseudo-facts; and acted to consider facts which a story-book retelling would not reveal. I have served on a jury, and I can tell you that it is a different feeling once you are in a courtroom. It is easy to throw dice and cast a person's fate when watching television, but it is quite another thing when asked to do it before God and the law, especially with the officers of the court, the representatives of the victim(s) and the representatives of the accused criminal(s) standing alive before you.
James V. Hoving, USA

Regardless of whether Mr Martin had a firearm or not, Fred Barras was committing an offence and should NOT have been there in the first place. Perhaps the men who took him there should shoulder a large part of the guilt.
Belinda Darwin, England



When it is you or him, the instinct of self-preservation prevails.

Syed, USA
Every Englishman's home is his CASTLE. If that be so there is an inevitable desire to protect it by whatever means. Lenient laws have bred unruly criminals. Have legal experts ever defined the parameters or measure of "reasonable" force? Consider, you fire in the air to scare the intruder and in sheer panic the intruder shoots you. Hey, dead men tell no tales. When it is you or him, the instinct of self-preservation prevails.
Syed, USA

I find most your comments to be scary and inhuman. To belittled one's life for material goods is silly. Please Britain do not become like America; What will be next? You'll shoot your neighbour cause he stole your hammer left in your yard?
By shooting at burglars you can be sure that next time they will all come up with a weapon and shoot the owner first. All this will end up just like in the States with twenty times more homicides than in Europe. As for the judgement I find it however very excessive for Tony.
Nicolas, France

Thank God I was born an American! You call this justice? You people are sick. If this had happened here the police chief would give the guy a medal for marksmanship. Mr. Martin, I salute you.
Sandy Pangolioa, USA

I think if you fear for your life or someone in your household you should be able to defend yourself. What right does a person have to break-in and threaten you.
Jody, USA



Mass vigilantism is not something I would want to see in this country.

Graham King, UK
It is right that people should be allowed to exert "reasonable force" in defending themselves and their property. This definition has to be evaluated in a case-by-case basis. There is no question that Tony Martin felt rightly aggrieved at the intruders, especially as he had been burgled several times in the past.
However, his actions were not taken in self-defence and on the spur of the moment. It was pre-meditated as he had prepared booby traps for the intruders and he shot the intruder in the back as he was running away - hardly an act of self-defence. This was pre-meditated, cold-blooded murder. Mass vigilantism is not something I would want to see in this country.
Graham King, UK

The justice system seems to think that criminals have rights, but I'm sorry, once anyone sets foot on my property in order to commit a crime, their rights go right out of the window as far as I'm concerned. Especially when the criminals rights seem to be put on higher priority to the victims'. The justice system desperately needs to be changed. If it isn't the criminal will just continue to laugh in our faces.
Wendy, UK



If a law contradicts public opinion (as the self-defence law seems to be doing at present), that law is, by definition, a bad law and should be changed.

Steve, England
I fully support Haig's call for the law of self-defence to be reformed or clarified. I cannot understand why he is getting so much flak for asking for the same thing as many other people have been doing since the perverse Martin verdict.
The law should always reflect current public opinion - always its servant, never its master. If a law contradicts public opinion (as the self-defence law seems to be doing at present), that law is, by definition, a bad law and should be changed.
Steve, England

It never ceases to amaze me how bloodthirsty the people who write to you are. He shot and killed (deliberately) using an illegal firearm. He said his aim was to kill, so premeditated, and seemingly most people want him for Prime Minister. What a load of codswallop. He had no right whatsoever to take someone else's life. Period.
Gav, Germany



Not a week after Mr Martin is found guilty of murdering a burglar an 80-year-old woman is attacked in her own home and bludgeoned around the head.

James Jeffrey, USA
Not a week after Mr Martin is found guilty of murdering a burglar an 80-year-old woman is attacked in her own home and bludgeoned around the head, almost killing her. Is it any wonder Mr Martin acted the way he did, if these cowards were afraid of the consequences of their actions maybe we wouldn't have so many criminals.
The Police are under a lot of pressure and not all the blame can be laid at their door, but something has to be done to curb this behaviour.
I can feel compassion for the family of the young man who is dead, but to be honest it was almost inevitable.
Mr Martin, while not a hero should not have been charged with murder, a manslaughter charge would have been more appropriate.
James Jeffrey, USA, but English

The law appears to have failed in every respect. It has penalised Martin for defending himself and his property. It also failed Barras because, after some 28 convictions and being on bail at the time of the shooting, he should really have been in prison. If he had maybe the two would never have met? Roll on the American three strikes and you're out philosophy.
Leigh Bowden, UK

Nice one Tony. And I don't mean Tony Blair. If someone broke into my house while my wife and daughters were asleep I would have no hesitation in shooting him/her/it. If they died, tough. My reaction when I heard the thief had died was to think "well he won't be breaking into my house then".
Steve, England

Shooting an unarmed teenager in the back can never be considered self-defence.
Ben Atkinson, UK



How come he got the same sentence as the likes of Harold Shipman, Myra Hindley and Reggie Kray?

John B, UK
Tony Martin did what many of us would have done, and what I believe he had every right to do - he defended what was legally his using force he felt was necessary. How come he got the same sentence as the likes of Harold Shipman, Myra Hindley and Reggie Kray?
John B, UK

The police and judicial system of this country repeatedly fail the victim and exonerate the criminal. Myself and my wife and then two-year-old son were the victim of repeated intimidation and threats by drug dealers who lived next door to our property. I lost my job, my wife ended up on medication. We endured this for eighteen months.
To cut a very long story short. Despite getting an injunction against them the police said when called out to act upon it "It's not worth the paper it's written on" and refused to do anything. They only acted when at a later date I threatened to sort it out myself. Even then it took ages to get to court.
Al Shaw, UK

Mr Martin is guilty - guilty of doing a better job than the police and the legal system. Criminals have scant regard for the rights of their victims, so why should they have any rights themselves?
MP, England



Martin had an ILLEGALLY held PUMP-ACTION shotgun.

P Richard, UK
What seems to be overlooked is that this Martin had an ILLEGALLY held PUMP-ACTION shotgun. If you use one of these things against people then you ought to be prepared to face the consequences in law.
He broke the law in the first place therefore any sympathy he may have evoked is misguided, but then equally these burglars should have received harsher sentences in the past which would have deterred their actions, three strikes and out?
P Richard, UK

We lived on an Estate in Northamptonshire 5 minutes from a police station. The quickest response we ever had on phoning the police was 20 minutes, not much help when you have vandals on your premises. I am afraid the Police and the courts who do not back up the police if they do make the effort, make for a very nervous and unpredictable public.
P. Tucker, England



You cannot define reasonable force if you are in a highly tense situation.

Graham Palmer, England
I think William Hague is right in the fact that the law is letting down the people in this country. The case of Tony Martin highlighted the fact that there is confusion on what the resident should use if there's an intruder in their house. The Police say that you must use reasonable force but you cannot define the reasonable if you are in a highly tense situation.
You do not know if the intruder has a weapon, so it only natural for the person to defend his property. There needs to be an alteration in the law to stop people getting convicted for protecting their own home. The intruders should not be there in the first place.
Graham Palmer, England

Life is more important than property. Full stop. Only a sociopath could disagree with that statement.
So unless - at the moment he fired the shot - (when the burglars were leaving) he thought they were going to kill him, he was committing an act of murder out of anger and concern for his possessions.
Martin is guilty, and personally I hope he dies in jail.
John Band, UK



Enabling potential victims to a right of self-defence ... would encourage more households to consider a gun as a form of self-defence.

Matt, Germany
In my opinion, people should have a right of self-defence however this should not border on aggression. Enabling potential victims to a right of self defence where someone being burgled could get away with shooting the burglar would encourage more households to consider a gun as a form of self-defence.
We would then be on a slippery slope to a position similar to the out of control gun laws in the US. Armed burglary would increase and the public would then be more at risk than the current situation. Guns have no place in the UK (nor should they in the US).
Matt, Germany (England)

The system should study the responses of the common people. I explained the situation to my eight-year-old. His answer "They shouldn't have stealed and he wouldn't have shot them".
Dave Irelan, USA/GB

Whilst you have to have a certain amount of sympathy with Tony Martin, it is not acceptable to take someone's life in this case and he is guilty of murder. If you make it legal for people to protect their homes in this way, it is open to abuse such that people can commit cold blooded murder and then claim self defence.
You only have to look here in the USA to see the result of that kind of attitude. It may seem tough on Mr. Martin but let's not get sucked into the gun mentality of the USA.
Philip Riley, USA



Alone and frightened after dark in an isolated farmhouse how on earth is one expected to make a judgement as to "reasonable force".

Sally Revill, England
At last a politician - William Hague - has spoken out. I live in the countryside and know that rural crime has greatly increased at the same time as police numbers decrease, the police station in my area is open from 9 till 5 weekdays only!
Alone and frightened after dark in an isolated farmhouse how on earth is one expected to make a judgement as to "reasonable force". Hindsight is a wonderful thing but of no use in the afore-mentioned situation. The burglars are volunteers, the householder the victim.
Sally Revill, England

Let's put this into perspective, it seems that it is reasonable for someone to invade your home, potentially terrorise you, destroy parts of your house, take your possessions and maybe even physically damage you. But as a home owner you have no right to defend either yourself or your home from attack - is this justice? Is it sane?
We don't need man-eating tigers or electric fences but we do need to know that we would not be prosecuted for defending our homes from intruders. I personally do not agree with many of Mr Hague's policies or beliefs but for once he seems to have recognised that this is a legitimate concern for the public.
GB, England



Each case that comes up should be determined on its merits.

Neil, England
Your right to defend your home exists in law, however there must be reasonable force, taking of a life is not reasonable force in this circumstance. There has to be some form of sentence in this case, if the gunholder had a permit then that could be taken from him and a custodial/suspended sentence may be appropriate in this case. If he did not have a permit then the gun was illegally held, which is a serious criminal issue. Each case that comes up should be determined on its merits, the jury found him guilty and on appeal he may get a different decision. Let's leave it to the courts.

The law is a bargain, between you and everyone else. We all sacrifice certain freedoms in order to protect other freedoms. I give up my freedom to walk into someone else's home and walk away with their property so that my home and property is protected. Hobbes stated in his book Leviathan that once you step outside this bargain (the law) you should cease to be protected by it. These youths stepped outside the law and I find it absurd that the very thing they disregarded continues to protect them.
Mr T Christy, UK



Mr Martin's case shows the complete inadequacy of our legal system.

Christopher Parker, UK
The UK legal system has failed Mr Martin twice: firstly in not being able to deter repeated burglaries and secondly in convicting him for murder. Mr Martin's case shows the complete inadequacy of our legal system: teenagers can commit tens, if not hundreds of burglaries and crimes without reasonable punishment.
Furthermore those people, who suffer under such a weak and poor system, and seek alternative redress are themselves put down with a jealousy and vindictiveness that show that those in charge of this system fear reform, and mock the pleadings and fears of the public. The current legal system does not have the respect of the people, and it is inevitable that people will seek an alternative redress.
Christopher Parker, UK

I live in London and have been the victim of crime several times. I now clearly see that the police and judicial system is failing the public. It is now too easy for the criminal to weigh the possibilities of getting caught against the rewards (e.g. theft) and then choosing the path of crime. We need to send a loud and clear message to criminals that if they commit crime, they will suffer the consequences, and if that means they lose their life then at least they knew they had a choice beforehand.
Smith, UK

Maybe I'm unique in my views but isn't the point of having a law against possession of unlicensed firearms supposed to prevent this sort of thing from happening. Mr Martin has a history of possessing illegal firearms and using them as he saw fit. He is described with the euphemism of 'extremely eccentric.' The fact he murdered anyone should be of no surprise - the fact he's become a national hero is.
Alistair, Scotland

Everyone should be able to feel secure in their own property. These guys were not out on a country walk as pure innocents. They knew if they were caught they would have to get out of a situation, and they would more than likely used force. They should also expect some form of brutality towards them. In the old days they would have strung up for this invasion of privacy. If it isn't stopped now who knows what we will have to do to protect our families and property.
Cliff Thompson, England



My great-uncle was suffocated with a pillow for his pension of 40.

John, UK
My family has been on the receiving end of these innocent young thugs with their whole lives ahead of them in the past - my great-uncle was suffocated with a pillow for his pension of 40. You can never assume a thief will leave you alone if you're nice and let him carry away your possessions unmolested - a few will torture you to find out if you're hiding anything worth having, others might well kill you and burn your house down to cover their tracks.
If my great-uncle had had a shotgun, and had killed the thug who meant to murder him before he got the chance to do so, he'd probably be in jail himself at this very moment, with the liberal types wailing "the poor young man didn't deserve to die just for robbery!"
Who can ever predict the outcome of a crime? How many - especially elderly people have died because they surprised a burglar who maybe really didn't intend to kill until they were discovered, but panicked? Everyone should be able to use force, even deadly force to protect themselves within their own homes.
John, UK



Let's face it if they hadn't been there, they would not have been shot.

Malcolm D McKeating, England
To examine facts of a shooting incident after the event and in the cold light of day is one thing. It is quite another when you are alone in your house in the dead of night and are confronted by two intruders is quite another. Let's face it if they hadn't been there, they would not have been shot.
Malcolm D McKeating, England

There are two real criminals who should bare the burden of this crime.

1 - The public for not demanding harsher jail sentences for repeat offenders.
2 - The parents of the shot 16-year-old.
Roy Matthews, England



Theft or attempted theft has not been a capital offence for many years so by what right had this man to take another's life?

John Collis, UK
The criteria for murder is causing death with malice aforethought. In this case the farmer pumped one and possibly two shots into the back of the victim. This would imply that the teenagers were retreating. This to me is murder. He was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a jury of his peers.
Had the victim been arrested on suspicion of house breaking then he would have been presumed innocent until proven guilty. The farmer acted as judge, jury and executioner. Theft or attempted theft has not been a capital offence for many years so by what right had this man to take another's life? What price a video recorder or TV now?
John Collis, UK

Yes you should have the right to protect your own property... whatever happened to the idea that a man's home is his castle. At any rate the police don't seem to be capable (or bothered) about doing anything to protect people who live in rural areas.
Kenny, England

It was Mr. Martin's intention to punish burglars with his own brand of justice. He fired no warning shot and made no attempt to contact the Police. After he was burgled for the second time he informed the Police their services would not be required as he was going to take care of matters himself. He murdered Barras and has suffered the consequences of his actions.
Oliver Richardson, UK



People in general are sick to death of being forced by law to leave themselves open to be mugged, raped and burgled without hope of protection.

Rob Harris, England
I notice from the responses that people in general are sick to death of being forced by law to leave themselves open to be mugged, raped and burgled without hope of protection or adequate retribution. On top of that, we have the delightful "reasonable force". I recall a situation a couple of years ago when a burglar received a hefty whack from the homeowner, who was fortunately large enough to make the laughable use of "reasonable force" a possibility.
The burglar fell and hit his head, later dying from his injury and the homeowner was prosecuted. This is clearly utterly insane, yet it goes on. I think it's time we started to question our methods of deciding who is put in charge, as those in power continually demonstrate complete contempt for the central ideals of democracy - by completely ignoring public demands, instead making tiny unnoticeable "politically safe" changes to a system desperately in need of a radical overhaul in many areas.
Rob Harris, England

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I thought we did away with the death sentence long ago. According to most commentators on this page, it's no longer OK for the justice system to hang people for stealing but it is OK for individual members of the public to shoot intruders on their property, essentially giving the young boy the death penalty for burglary - but he didn't even get a trial.
Claire, UK

Prisons in this country are overcrowded enough, they should be kept for cold-blooded murderers.
James Reid, UK



Tony Martin was about to lose what he had spent his life working for.

AF, UK
Tony Martin is no more than the embodiment of the frustration that we all feel at the impotence of the judicial system in this country. Yes a young man died but have no doubt he knew exactly what he was doing on that night, and his death however tragic will no doubt save future misery for countless normal honest people.
Tony Martin was about to lose what he had spent his life working for - part of his life was about to be, possibly irreplaceably taken and he defended it. Release him now and send a message to those who remove themselves from the protection of our law.
AF, UK

As an American, I find much of this debate to be absurd. First of all, in a free society, I don't see how a firearm in the hands of a law-abiding citizen can be considered "illegal". It is a man's natural right to defend himself, his family and his property. I work very hard for everything I have. I have nice house and nice furnishings and I work damn hard to get all of them.
If anyone breaks into my home while I'm present should expect to get the same greeting that these two boys did and consider themselves lucky to live to tell the tale. These boys signed their own death certificates when they broke into this man's home. He didn't invite them in, they were breaking the law, they got everything they deserved.
Kiley Anderson, USA

In all the arguments about this case and its reflection on British justice, two things strike me.
1) If Mr Barras hadn't been breaking the law, he wouldn't have been in a position to be shot.
2) How can two 10-year-old boys be adjudged responsible for their actions in killing a toddler, but a 16-year-old can't be responsible for his actions in carrying out a burglary? I think this is an excellent case for a thorough review of our pitiful legal system.
Vik, England

A life sentence for Mr Martin is absurd! Certainly he has a fundamental right to protect not only himself but his home as well. That right, however, does not allow him to murder at will. A lessor charge and sentence would be more appropriate.
Donald Coss, USA



I support Tony Martin...he should be released immediately.

Philip Addy, England
The police can no longer "protect" - they can only "respond" well after the event has taken place. It is up to each individual to protect their home, with no assistance from the police - that is absolutely obvious nowadays. I support Tony Martin...he should be released immediately.
Philip Addy, England

Tony Martin getting life for defending himself is a travesty. The police were unable or unwilling to protect him. The judicial system is a disaster, biased in favour of the guilty. Justice is only available to those who can afford the leading barristers.
Adam Webb, England

The test should be: 1) Did you BELIEVE that your life was threatened? 2) Did you use the reasonable force required to defend yourself? If the answer to both of these is 'yes' then Mr. Martin is not guilty of anything but a natural human desire to save his own skin. Shame on the British justice system for whipping this man who defended himself and that which he has worked for!
Kristian, Canada



Unfortunately we appear to have a legal system that strongly favours the criminal and penalises the victim

James McNair, England
The courts decision is plainly a miscarriage of justice. Unfortunately we appear to have a legal system that strongly favours the criminal and penalises the victim, this can be seen in other areas of the law such as rape , (ask any woman who's had to go through the trauma of a trial).
However, a re-trial and an acquittal can rectify this. Martin should not have been charged in the first place, but given a medal for removing a blight upon society. I am not advocating everybody becoming armed, but in certain circumstances people are justified in taking the law in their own hands, this is one of them.
James McNair, England

If the police response time is so slow that they can never be there to protect you, it is your duty to protect yourself. In the dead of night, how can you know that the intruder would not be armed with at least a screwdriver to stab you. There could be more than one of them and so lethal force should be acceptable.
Peter Clayton, UK

It is extremely upsetting that Farmer Martin has been convicted for murder. Manslaughter would have been more appropriate. He was after all defending his own property against criminal rat-bags. Policing is a farce in this country. No longer does the Englishman have his castle!
Mike Everett, UK

Yes, the boy was 16...but he was a criminal. He broke into someone's house. Are you seriously trying to tell me that he didn't know that was wrong? From what I've heard, this farmer fired blindly into the dark, and just happened to catch the boy in the back. The fact that he later said he intended to kill was on account of the number of times his house had been broken into and nothing been done about it. Convict him of possessing illegal firearms, yes, but not murder.
Duncan Young, UK

Home invasions wreck the victims' lives. Everyone deserves the right to protect themselves against home invaders. Your justice system is sick.
Martin Eady, Canada



I would have had little doubt in voting guilty.

Andrew Lowe, England
There seems to be some misunderstanding about reasonable force. It is not the case that to wound would have been preferable - or to use a penknife or cudgel. The imminence of danger and scale of threat are what mainly count.
Fred was shot in the back and left to bleed to death crying for his mother. Tony had spoken of his desire to kill next intruder, had laid traps and had sat in wait. I would have had little doubt in voting guilty.
Andrew Lowe, England

It is pretty obvious that Mr Martin is no criminal, as he is not the one who went out looking for trouble. He unfortunately was put in a situation in which he had to react in such a violent way as a means of self-preservation and desperation. The blame for this incidence lies squarely on the judicial system and the society which gives the criminals more privileges than the victims.
R Bevli, USA

Killing is wrong every way you look at it. Defending your property should not go as far as taking one's life. If it were the case, we'd get every off-license owner in East London killing just about everyone who enters their shop.
Billy-bob, America/England



Why did Martin deliberately implicate himself knowing, surely, that this was going to seal the case against him?e

Simon Cameron, UK
Brett Golledge makes a compelling case which almost had me agreeing. My question is why did Martin deliberately implicate himself knowing, surely, that this was going to seal the case against him? He was not naive. He was also seemingly wealthy enough to avail himself of the best legal advice.
Simon Cameron, UK

A grave miscarriage of justice I feel. This man has been tried by hindsight, without the realisation that split-second reactions in a life-threatening situation are very different from everyday life. The world belongs to the young thugs, while the elderly take their chances. A dreadful situation.
Ray Marsh, Australia

It is absurd that Tony Martin has been found guilty of murder. His only crime was possessing an illegal firearm. The two people that broke in are the criminals not him. What is also absurd is that Mr Martin was sentenced to life on a majority verdict. What is fair about this? If guilty of murder, and sentenced to life the prosecution should have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. 10-2 verdict means that a reasonable doubt still existed. The judge should not be allowed to accept anything other than a unanimous verdict for such serious crimes.
AB, Malaysia

The trial and punishment are a travesty of justice. Whilst property is of little importance compared with human life, a government that does not support the right of citizens to possess and enjoy property is not worthy and should be disestablished forthwith.
Marzo, USA



It seems to me that he killed quite coldly by shooting someone in the back, striking out his own anger at societies inept ability to protect his property.

Brett Golledge, UK,
Tony Martin did not state in his evidence given to the Police or in court that he fired his gun as a reactionary measure. What he did say was that he intended to kill, (not simply to defend himself). He stated to Police and in court repeatedly that he intended to kill anyone that entered his property (whether armed or not themselves). The law allows anyone to use reasonable force to defend oneself and whilst I have great sympathy with a lot of the views which have been expressed so far, the plain fact is that Tony Martin had the opportunity to say that he fired the gun because he was defending his own life, but he did not. It seems to me that he killed quite coldly by shooting someone in the back, striking out his own anger at societies inept ability to protect his property. Either way he is Guilty of murder.
Brett Golledge, UK,

Once again we have been treated to opinions so egregious that only an imbecile could offer them. It is an interesting, but not useful, facet of the British social security system that judicial employment is provided to the elderly at such time as they have lost adequate mental capacity and can no longer be productive members of society. While laudable in maintaining low unemployment figures, it does impose perhaps unacceptable costs on other, less fortunate, members.
Allan Lees, USA

Something went wrong with this verdict. Arguing that the intruders were under-age and didn't know what they were doing at the time of the crime is absurd. If this is a simple case where someone broke into Mr. Martin's property, I reckon he had every right to shoot his gun at them.
Jonathan, US / UK

Murder can never be an acceptable way to protect ones property. Shooting someone in the back does not strike me as self-defence and comments Mr Martin made before the burglary made it seem to me that this was a deliberate killing to punish the intruders, not to defend his person. We all have a part to play in making life harder for burglars as do the police. A society where cold-blooded killing is acceptable is not the solution.
Stuart, Wales



It is a disgrace that he is jailed for defending his property.

James Marshall, UK
There is no doubt that the police are powerless to stop or even catch intruders even when they have been summoned to attend by a householder. For the police to say you should leave it to us to attend and apprehend a criminal, it is weasel speak. I believe that this farmer should be released on appeal. He may have been paranoiac about being burgled but he had good reason and the police had failed him in the past. It is a disgrace that he is jailed for defending his property. If you go out with intention of breaking into a property then you must accept the consequences. The police are quite useless to stop you.
James Marshall, UK

Speaking as someone who has been on the receiving end of a burglary, I cannot put into words what I think of those people who consider it their right to invade and steal the hard-earned property of law-abiding citizens. They are the lowest of the low and whilst I am sorry for the family of the boy killed, I feel that Tony Martin should not have stood trial, let alone been convicted of murder.
T Harrow, UK

What is minimum force? If you wound him, he'll probably take you to court and win with the crazy juries we have in UK.
Graham, England

Something that most commentators here miss - he killed a sixteen year old boy with his entire life ahead of him just to protect his property. As a society, we must judge crimes as crimes - intention has nothing to do with it. He took someone else's life and he should pay by losing his liberty for the rest of "his" life.
Marc Dauncey, UK

The victim was a teenage boy and he was shot in the back with an illegal firearm. What is wrong with all these people? You don't need to be a woolly liberal to find the prospect of the state giving people the right to kill to protect their stereos absolutely nightmarish. Grow up!
Tim Turner, UK

Once again, the British justice system is the laughing stock of the world.
James, UK



It is extremely sad that Mr Martin felt himself driven to murder the intruder in house

Dave Graham, UK
I can't say that I'm surprised, but the indignant tone and content of the views to date seem completely to ignore the key facts of the case. When shot, the burglars were departing from the house. If Mr Martin had confronted the burglars as they entered his house, warned them that he was armed and then shot them as they came at him in a threatening manner then the outcome of the case would most likely have been different, but that was not the case. It is extremely sad that Mr Martin felt himself driven to murder the intruder in house, but I believe that he has received a just response.
Dave Graham, UK

The jury clearly felt that the level of force used by Tony Martin exceeded the 'reasonable level' allowed in law, hence they found him guilty. Had he pleaded guilty to this charge, another outcome may have been possible. Those who possess and use firearms must be prepared for the consequences.
Keith Mendum, England

There has been much debate over the past couple of days as to what a person can do to protect themselves and their family from intruders. I have yet to hear a sufficient response.
One police spokesperson said that you can only fire, when you have been fired upon. Had Tony Martin waited to be fired upon or attacked, he would probably be dead, and the two boys would probably have got off with a much lesser charge. This case should never have gone to court. These boys knew what they were doing, and have to face the consequences. Something is very wrong with our justice system.
Iain Lowrie, UK



There isn't much that is worth killing for, but we should have the right to protect our families, our property, and ourselves.

Phil, UK
There isn't much that is worth killing for, but we should have the right to protect our families, our property, and ourselves. A straight murder verdict is IMO inappropriate to Mr Martin because it places no blame on an intruder who had no right to be where he was. I don't think he was right to take the intruder's life, but no way would I convict him for murder. Once again, the law loses respect.
Phil, UK

I feel sorry for the farmer here. What would have happened if he hadn't defended his property? He would probably have become one of the many people assaulted and beaten to death each year by burglars disturbed in the act. I used to live in Saudi Arabia, and in the 6 years I was there, knew of only 1 burglary having taken place in a community of 15000. He was caught and his hand was chopped off! Severe maybe, but we didn't have to lock cars, house doors etc, as theft was more or less unheard of!
Ian Lee, England

Irrespective of a countries justice system, common sense supersedes it. Everyone has a fundamental right to defend their person and their property. If this leads to the death of a criminal, so be it.
Mr Dean, UK

Had Martin not shot and mistakenly killed Barras. Had Barras then gone on to kill Martin, in self-defence of course. Judging by recent cases Barras would have escaped with a charge of manslaughter, a trip to Disneyland and later an apology for wrongful arrest and loads of money. Martin deserves a medal, not a custodial sentence.
Simon Mallett, UK



Mr. Martin merely acted to preserve himself in what is an increasingly violent society.

Jamie, UK
When someone illegally breaks into your home, it is impossible to ascertain what there intentions are, we are constantly warned by the police on TV etc. to expect the worse in such situations. Should you find someone in your home, your instinctive reaction is fear and self-preservation, burglars don't wear 'burglar' T-shirts, so you naturally presume the worst - Mr. Martin merely acted to preserve himself in what is an increasingly violent society.
Jamie, UK

I doubt you'll print this, but if you do, I'd like to say that I am fed up of our societies victims coming off worse than their perpetrators. He deserves a medal.
Amanda, England

It is a disgrace to jail Mr Martin, two thugs, who have a long history of crimes, against society break into his house, most likely frighten him, what did the two thugs expect. Here in the states we have (in some states three strikes and YOUR OUT). It is a great pity that the government, of England does not face up to the fact that in a period of less than 25 years the streets of major cities in the UK are not safe, and that young thugs are "getting away with it"
Bill Attwood, USA

If I recall correctly, Mr. Martin had experienced many previous burglaries. Presumably the police had completely failed to apprehend the individuals responsible and thus left Mr. Martin with no choice. What can you do when society has failed you?
Chris Cowdery, England

Everybody should have the right to protect their own property albeit with say the rule of minimum force. The Police and Armed Forces have to abide by this as long as the amount of force is justified as reasonable in the circumstances. If the force that is needed to achieve this is what Tony Martin had used then that is reasonable. No one has the right to invade and do whatever they wish to anyone else's property etc, unless they are prepared to suffer the consequences. I would do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of my family and possessions.
Paul Newman, England

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:


Links to other Talking Point stories