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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK

Jailed farmer attacks parties

The Norfolk farmer jailed for life for shooting dead a 16 year-old intruder at his remote farm, has attacked Labour and Conservative policies towards law and order.

In an interview from Gartree prison in Leicestershire, Tony Martin said they amounted to nothing more than rhetoric, and criticised rural police for failing to act against criminals.

Martin told BBC News that he feared a repeat of his case unless more police were recruited.

"Unless things change things aren't going to get any better, and there are going to be an awful lot of innocent people caught up in the same situation," he said.

Martin's case sparked national debate about the right to self-defence and the quality of rural policing after he killed Fred Barras, 16, and wounded another man.

All the major political parties have acknowledged a need for more police officers and a recruitment drive was launched by Home Secretary Jack Straw earlier this year.

Martin, who had been plagued by burglaries at his isolated farmhouse, insisted that he tried to give police "lots of information".

But he said: "Basically, you are on your own ... There are policemen who are beginning to speak up."

He added: "If you don't give them [the police] the proper power it is like sending a stooge down."

Martin claimed the main political parties "suffered from rhetoric". Neither party had the policies to combat crime, he said.

Questioned about his feelings over killing Fred Barras, he said: "I cannot go over that ... when you are in that situation, tell me about it."

Police targets 'not enough'

Superintendent Kevin Morris of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales said he wanted to see a return to the higher policing levels of 10 years ago.

He said: "There has been a change and we have seen a rise in numbers. But it's not good enough and we need more.

But the Police Federation believes the Home Secretary's targets for boosting the police force are insufficient to fight crime effectively.

The federation wants a 10% increase in numbers and believes the government's plan for 128,000 officers by 2002 will not deliver the type of policing and results to which the public is entitled.

Martin, 55, was found guilty in April 2000, of murdering Fred Barras and wounding his accomplice, Brendan Fearon, 30, with a shotgun.

The farmer shot Barras after he broke into his rundown farmhouse Bleak House, in Emneth Hungate, near Emneth, Norfolk.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted by a 10-2 majority after an eight-day trial at Norwich Crown Court..

In the Today interview, Martin would not say whether he regretted the killing despite repeated questioning.

The interview ended when Martin's phone card ran out of time.



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