'A young boy died and no-one can suggest that death is a punishment for burglary'

Tony Martin Appeal
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The Independent Online

For Tony Martin's supporters, yesterday's decision was a case of too little, too late.

Malcolm Starr, a friend of the farmer and the organiser of the Free Tony Martin Campaign, said: "I think he should be let out. 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."

He complained that Brendan Fearon – who was injured by Martin on the same night that the farmer shot and killed Fred Barras, and who was later jailed for conspiracy to burgle – had already been freed.

"How can that be right?" he said. "Here is a career criminal who took a 16-year-old boy out with him and got him killed. Then Fearon says that Tony Martin should show remorse. It's ludicrous."

Others were quick to voice anger against the police. David Barnard, who lives near Martin's home in Emneth and is a member of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, called for the resignation of Norfolk's Chief Constable, Ken Williams.

"Tony Martin should not be in jail. The reason he is in this position is because the police are so inadequate," Mr Barnard said. "We have a Chief Constable who is not doing his job properly. This is a man who said Tony Martin should have screamed loudly when he was confronted by the burglars."

Others, however, said they believed the Court of Appeal's decision to accept Martin's plea of diminished responsibility was fair and sensible. The former Tory cabinet minister Gillian Shephard, MP for South West Norfolk, said: "I've never known a case that has aroused such national, indeed, international reaction. I cannot recall one that has produced a more unanimous feeling – Tony Martin should not have been convicted of murder."

Tony Bone, organiser of the Norfolk Farmwatch scheme, accepted that Martin's case had been difficult. He said: "I have sympathy with a man who has been imprisoned in these circumstances and I certainly do not like people who go around burgling houses. But a young boy died. And no one could suggest that death is an appropriate punishment for burglary.

"I don't think Tony Martin can be classed as an average man. He had a pump-action shotgun, for one thing. Ideally, I would like to see Fred Barras still alive and Tony Martin living his life normally."