Burglar shot by Tony Martin is freed early

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The Independent Online

The Home Office faced fury last night after one of the burglars shot by Tony Martin was released after serving less than a third of his sentence for heroin dealing.

Brendan Fearon, 33, walked out of Ranby prison in Nottinghamshire, three days before Martin is due to be freed.

Fearon, who is threatening to sue Martin for £15,000 in compensation, was freed 104 days early under the home detention curfew scheme. He will be required to wear an electronic tag and stay indoors between 7pm and 7am.

Henry Bellingham, Martin's MP, said: "I hope it's a coincidence but I have my suspicions it's the Home Office having one last dig at Tony Martin. I think the Home Office hates [him] and the prison and probation services regard him with unease."

Martin's supporters contrasted Fearon's early release with the farmer being locked up for the maximum time allowed under his five-year sentence for manslaughter. Malcolm Starr, a friend, said: "It's double standards and reflects that the Government seems to favour the burglars and not the innocent householder."

Peter Sainsbury, general secretary of the POW Trust, a charity which is supporting Martin, said: "Fearon is a professional criminal who knows all the angles of the judicial system and has succeeded in getting released on a tag.

"Tony Martin - previously a man of good character, refused parole since last September, refused home visits - is in solitary confinement in a police cell prior to his release."

The Home Office refused to respond to the attacks. But officials insisted the timing of Fearon's release was entirely coincidental and said he had qualified for early release entirely in keeping with the stipulations of the home curfew scheme.

Fearon was injured, and his 16-year-old accomplice, Fred Barras, was killed when Martin opened fire on them after they broke into his isolated farmhouse at Emneth Hungate, Norfolk.

The farmer was originally jailed for life for murder, but the conviction was reduced on appeal to manslaughter, with a jail sentence of five years.

Martin, 58, was moved from Highpoint prison, Suffolk, to a secret "safe house", understood to be an East Anglian police station, on Thursday to avoid his release degenerating into a media scrum.

He plans to renovate his dilapidated home and return to farming. Martin is understood to have had plenty of offers of help, with a local builder proposing his services. Floodlights have been fitted and an air-raid siren could also be installed.

Norfolk Police erected a cabin outside the front gate of the 200-acre farm yesterday to deal with the expected media presence there.

Sources in the force discounted reports of threats to Martin's safety after his release but said officers had held meetings with him to discuss his safety.