Martin a hero to victims of crime

31 October 2001

Martin a hero to victims of crime

By Adrienne Francis
THE Court of Appeals decision to reduce Tony Martins conviction from murder to manslaughter draws much comment from Britains newspapers.

The Norfolk farmer saw his life sentence for killing a sixteen-year-old burglar reduced to a five-year prison term on Tuesday (30 October).

Appeal judges accepted psychiatric evidence that Mr Martin was suffering from a paranoid personality disorder. He is eligible for parole in 12 months.

The Daily Mail, which devotes its entire front page to the story, says there is no comfort for anyone involved in the tragedy.

Householders still feel desperately vulnerable and afraid. The law seems to offer them scant protection, the paper notes.

A leader comment piece in the Guardian says: The life sentence should never have been imposed under the murder conviction.

It adds: It now rests with politicians to allow more proportionate sentences than just life for murder.

The paper says the Martin case shows a need to reform sentencing laws.

The Daily Telegraph says the farmers conviction has also raised important questions about householders right to protect property.

The paper questions the retention of a mandatory life sentence for murder, as well as the manifest inadequacy of rural policing.

No householder faced with an assailant in his own home can be confident that the authorities will back him if he seeks to defend himself.

The Independent agrees that the courts should be given powers to determine a sentence for murder.

It adds: Mandatory sentences leave judges with no discretion to ensure the punishment meets the facts of each case they preside over.

Lawyers and judges have to engage in the torturous business of fitting the law to the sentence, the paper says.

The Daily Express says Mr Martin became an “overnight folk hero” to people fed up with rural crime.

Many barristers and judges are said to feel uneasy about the mandatory life sentence for murder, the paper adds

“It means, that serial murderers and mercy killers receive the same sentence.”

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