19 January 2010

Justice

Tony Martin - still waiting for his knighthood.

Popular culture might insist that we should all have heroes. To tell you the truth, I am not hot on the idea of heroes. If pushed, apart from my family and friends, I'd say that for me there's the legendary Bob Dylan, there's Dean Windass the former Hull City AFC striker and there's Tony Martin. They are my heroes. But I hear you saying - Tony who?
In August 1999, Tony Martin heard intruders downstairs in his isolated Norfolk farmhouse. Emneth Hungate Farm was a ramshackle place and eccentric bachelor Martin lived a disorganised sort of life there miles from anywhere. He had been visited by burglars before, including the two "travellers" who arrived that night. Frightened and angry, Martin grabbed his shotgun, crept downstairs and soon afterwards blasted the pair of them. The youngest - Barras - aged just sixteen - was shot in the back and died at the scene. The older one - Fearon - was permanently "disabled" - Martin shot the guy's "crown jewels"!
Anyway - and I still find this incredible - Tony Martin was sentenced to three years in jail. The judge concluded that he went beyond the boundaries of reasonable force and had no right to take the law into his own hands like that. What is more, though he was a model prisoner, he was not considered for early release because he refused to show any remorse for his actions that August night. Instead of being sent to jail, I still believe that Tony Martin should have been presented with a medal at Buckingham Palace for services to the community and for being brave enough to fight back.
Another case has recently received a fair amount of news coverage. Back in September 2008, Mr Munir Hussain was returning from his local mosque in High Wycombe with his family. As soon as they stepped over the threshold of their home, they were confronted by three burglars in balaclavas. These guys tied Munir and his family up and made them crawl from room to room as they ransacked the house looking for valuables. Munir and his brother managed to untie themselves almost as soon as the gang departed.
They chased them down the street and cornered Walid Salem whereupon they beat him. Munir hit him so hard with a cricket bat that it broke. The career burglar with a criminal history as long as your arm is now allegedly "permanently brain damaged" but he continues to commit crimes in his area. He was not jailed for his crime at the Hussains' home. Munir was sentenced to thirty months in jail and his brother Tokeer received thirty nine months. At first my instinct was to bracket the Hussain brothers with Tony Martin - heroes - but in spite of myself, I tend to agree with the judge that their brutal revenge attack probably went too far.
Nonetheless, in the end we need to ask ourselves what we would do if we came across intruders in our own homes. Natural justice would tell most of us to fight back, to defend our loved ones and our property, to teach the feckless self-seeking intruders a lesson they would never forget. If put in the same situation as Munir Hussain, perhaps I would have given chase and bashed Walid Salem's brains out. In the heat of the moment you never know how you might react. It would be difficult to take a backward step and think coolly about how best to respond. What would the two judges in these cases have done if Barras and Fearon or Walid Salem had crept across the gravel, past the dove cotes and the double garages, to enter their palatial homes?

Munir and Tokeer Hussein

7 comments:

  1. I agree with you, YP.I always felt that Tony Martin was unjustly convicted. In the more recent case, yes they probably did go too far but how do any of us know how we would react in a similar situation? I think natural instinct would be to want to make sure the assailant was out of action, at least long enough for me to get myself and anyone with me to safety. In Tony Martin's case, he had been targeted constantly by these thugs, with no help or support forthcoming from the police. He must have been in despair.

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  2. I don't know there's something about the Tony Martin case that was just not right. I'm not talking about his eccentricity here either.

    The idea that you are entitled to shoot someone just because you've been burgled before and you live somewhere remote, doesn't sit on the positive side of right and wrong with my moral compass.

    Sorry. You're the voice of sanity, reason and experience on so many things Puddo, but not here.

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  3. BTW, heard on the news this afternoon that, Saleem, the intruder who was left brain damaged, and so was excused from being prosecuted, has continued to commit crimes!

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  4. My perspective, from here in the Wild West, is that Mr. Martin did what was necessary. We're not bothered much in my small community because the criminals know that farmers keep guns and will use them. I don't keep a gun, but I do have a sturdy cane.

    Kids are being taught not to defend themselves, to run and tell the teacher. I understand why this is often a good solution, but it seems like an attitude of calm assertiveness, which comes when you KNOW you're responsible for your own well-being, is a good deterrent in most social situations. If we're all content to be potential victims, it only makes the criminals stronger.

    That probably sounds uncivilized.

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  5. JENNY Glad to hear we are on the same moral wavelength on this.
    BOOZE You are correct. There was something that was just not right about the Tony Martin case - namely that his property was invaded by two criminals. End of.
    JENNY This guy - Walid Salem was clearly not brain damaged by the cricket bat, he was brain damaged by his own selfishness and his greedy efforts to take other people's property.
    JAN BLAWAT In such matters I think America has a more naturally appropriate way of addressing intruders. Sometimes we should not be all civilised and apologetic but forthright in our response. Nobody made these pieces of dirt do what they do. If you play with fire sometimes you're gonna get burnt.

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  6. Hi hope you dont mind me leaving this note, I feel its very simple, you cross my threshold without an invite and threaten my family you take the consequences i do not know you as a stranger or how far you would go to harm then. I think any force is acceptable given the unknown situation presented.

    If they get away and think that is the end of it they will do it again and again to other families. As is proven by the fact the brain damaged thug is still committing crimes (although you think he may have learnt his lesson).

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  7. I can't stand Judges who sit there, dispassionately spouting the letter of the law and seemingly unable to understand the angst of the victim.

    I'll tell you this, if that had happened to me and my wife, my offspring, their wives and my new Grandson had been in the house, I would have chased them to the ends of the earth to belabour them with a cricket bat.

    Because you've been violated. Your castle has been breached. Your LIFE will never be the same.

    And some 'Ivory-Towered' prick in a wig feels the the cold, reptilian letter of the law can deal with the hot, animated and emotional response of the victim. It's a visceral response. Built into our very DNA. Reason is a stranger at such moments.

    But then again, common sense is often a stranger to our legal profession.

    Grrrrrr......

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