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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 15:13 GMT
Manslaughter verdict for Martin
Bleak House farm, Norfolk, where farmer Tony Martin shot Barras
Martin lived in isolation in a near derelict farmhouse
A farmer jailed for life for murdering a teenage burglar who broke into his home has had his conviction reduced to manslaughter by the Court of Appeal.

Tony Martin was convicted in April last year after he shot and killed 16-year-old Fred Barras and wounded the teenager's accomplice Brendan Fearon at his Norfolk farm in August 1999.

Martin used a firearm which he knew he was not entitled to have in a manner which was wholly unjustified

Lord Woolf

On Tuesday, the appeal judges reduced Martin's life sentence to five years, and cut his 10-year sentence for wounding Fearon to three years, to run concurrently.

The appeal judges accepted new psychiatric evidence that Martin was suffering from a paranoid personality disorder and acting under diminished responsibility when he shot Barras.

Tony Martin
Martin received support from the rural community

Their decision means the 56-year-old farmer, who has served 18 months of his sentence, will be eligible for release on parole in about a year's time.

Lord Woolf, sitting with Mr Justice Wright and Mr Justice Grigson, said: "Martin used a firearm which he knew he was not entitled to have in a manner which was wholly unjustified.

"There can be no excuse for this, though we treat his responsibility as being reduced."

'Victim of crime'

Outside the court, Martin's lawyer James Saunders said his client was "relieved" that he could now see an end to his ordeal and that he was no longer branded a murderer.

Mr Saunders added that Martin wished he had had the opportunity to go before a jury in the light of fresh evidence, and said an appeal to the House of Lords was being considered.

A young boy died - and no-one could suggest that death is an appropriate punishment for burglary

Tony Bone, Norfolk Farmwatch
To many in the rural community, Martin represented somebody fighting back against the rising tide of crime.

Many people in the village of Emneth Hungate, near to where Martin lived, welcomed the news on Tuesday, maintaining the farmer had been a victim of crime.

And Malcolm Starr, a friend of Martin and the organiser of the Free Tony Martin Campaign, said it was "disgraceful that he should have to serve another 12 cruel months in prison" and should be let out.

He added: "I don't think it should ever have gone to court. I know I am biased but I think the majority of people in this country would not be far behind me."

Tony Bone, organiser of the Norfolk Farmwatch scheme, said he had sympathy for Martin but believed the appeal outcome on Tuesday was fair.

"A young boy died. And no-one could suggest that death is an appropriate punishment for burglary.
Fred Barras
The death of Fred Barras sparked a national debate

"I don't think Tony Martin can be classed as an average man. He had a pump-action shotgun, for one thing."

The family of Fred Barras, the 16-year-old burglar shot dead in Martin's farmhouse, would be "traumatised" by the Court of Appeal's decision, said Fred Barras's uncle, Tony Joynes.

Mr Joynes said: "To me for somebody to be shot in the back it has got to be murder. I'm no law expert but he did mean to kill them."

Martin has always maintained he acted in self defence.

'Extremely eccentric'

During the appeal earlier this month, the court heard how Martin suffered from a long-standing paranoid personality disorder which meant that at the time of the killing he was suffering from abnormality of mind.

The reclusive farmer had been described as "eccentric in the extreme".

He lived alone in near darkness and squalor at the remote farmhouse, called Bleak House, sleeping with his clothes and boots on.
Brendan Fearon
Brendan Fearon was wounded

He was fearful of crime but told friends he was prepared to defend his property. He had ladders rigged in trees as lookout posts, and inside stair removed as a makeshift booby trap.

The controversial guilty verdict in April 2000 provoked a huge debate about how far people can go to protect their property and themselves.

But the original jury decided the farmer was not defending his property but taking the law into his own hands.

The BBC's Stephen Cape
"Tony Martin will not be eligible for parole for at least another year"
Tony Martin's solicitor James Saunders
"He is grateful for what he has been given"
The BBC's Emma Simpson reports from Emneth
"This is a community that has a huge amount of sympathy for Tony Martin"
See also:

16 Oct 01 | England
Farmer's shot 'accurate or lucky'
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