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The end of sanity in Britain

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

– Thomas Paine, Common Sense,1776

For a measure of the institutional senile dementia that grips the British state, you need look no further than here:

Government lawyers trying to keep the Norfolk farmer Tony Martin behind bars will tell a High Court judge tomorrow that burglars are members of the public who must be protected from violent householders.

The case could help hundreds of criminals bring claims for damages for injury suffered while committing offences.

In legal papers seen by The Independent, Home Office lawyers dispute Mr Martin’s contention that he poses no risk to the public because he only represents a threat to burglars and other criminals who trespass on his property.

They say: “The suggestion … that the Parole Board was not required to assess the risk posed by Mr Martin to future burglars or intruders (on the grounds that they do not form part of the public at large) is remarkable.”

“It cannot possibly be suggested that members of the public cease to be so whilst committing criminal offences, and whilst society naturally condemns, and punishes such persons judicially, it can not possibly condone their (unlawful) murder or injury.”

Whilst it should be clear from this that the lunatics have indeed taken over the asylum, the pathology at work here should be clear. Private property, far from being the bedrock upon which western liberal civilization is based, is instead seen as having no genuine value at all to those who see ‘The State’ as the axis around which all revolves and nothing whatsoever that is distinctly separate called ‘civil society’. Thus private property is seen as a distasteful aberration that does not really make any sense, at best ‘property which the state does not yet own’. Therefore to use force to defend that which has no real value is clearly unacceptable.

As the people who think that way have made sure they have a near monopoly on the means of violence and coercion, that does not bode well for… well, anyone who is not happy to just be an drone-like adjunct of the state.

38 comments to The end of sanity in Britain

  • back40

    This reminded me of an article in the Guardian on the 3rd.

    “Orwell thought of himself as a member of the “dissident left,” as distinguished from the “official left,” meaning basically the British Labour party, most of which he had come, well before the second world war, to regard as potentially, if not already, fascist. More or less consciously, he found an analogy between British Labour and the Communist Party under Stalin – both, he felt, were movements professing to fight for the working classes against capitalism, but in reality concerned only with establishing and perpetuating their own power.”

  • More evidence of the cancer that has eaten away the fibre of the ruling elites.

  • Andrew Rettek

    By this logic all police should be jailed, because they represent a threat to the burgling public (if they don’t then why are they there?).

  • There are times when no comment seems sufficiently irrational.

    It falls to British subjects to decide what sort of future they want. They appear to have a choice between insurrection and State-imposed chaos. Are there other alternatives?

  • John McVey


    Yup – emigration.

    My parents left Scotland in 1979 thanks to Labour making it pretty much impossible to lead a decent lifestyle on a modest income. Now that I am an adult (I was 6 at the time), I am NOT going back to any part of the UK, never mind Scotland.

  • Malcolm

    Not to be contrarian Perry, but the argument advanced by the Crown, as relayed in your article is not only perfectly orthodox but entirely correct. Burglars are not outlaws.

    You may think it right that a person should be entitled to defend their property with lethal force. For myself, at the least I think that the householder is entitled to a strong presumption that they were in fear of their life, and a broad leeway as to the practical means of defending themselves, taking into account the urgency, fear, lack of time for reflection, and greater public interest in defending the householder than the burglar.

    That said, had Mr Martin captured the burglar, imprisoned him for six months, and spent the time systematically convincer the invader of the error of his ways using thumbscrews and electrodes, surely you would agree that he would have been out of order. If there is anything you can imagine the householder doing that would put him beyond the pale, then the Crown argument is logically correct.

    It is, however, a straw man.

    Martin’s argument is – presumably – that he is NO threat to anybody except burglars, and that even to burglars he is only a threat to those who break into his home, and even to them he is only going to defend his person and his home, not subject them to thumbscrews etc. Those, like me, who didn’t think Martin should have been locked up in the first place will easily accept this argument.

    Those who disagreed earlier, and supported his conviction, will likely not accept the last point. However, the Parole Board should take notice of the fact that although he was convicted on the basis that his actions were not in fact self-defence, Martin’s position has always been that he was only defending himself. It therefore follows that all that he is saying is that he intends to defend himself from burglars in the future, if it be necessary. Since that is a perfectly lawful intention, the Parole Board have no right to hold it against him, and to expect any other statement is an unreasonable abuse.

    Incidentally, this calls to mind the Parole Board’s practice of not paroling convicts who refuse to admit their guilt. This is a practice I find quite intolerable. To require people to confess in order to be paroled only serves to detain the genuinely innocent yet further, while the guilty pretend contrition and go free.

  • veryretired

    This legal madness is a symptom of a deeper moral irrationality—the adoption of the equation that all force = violence. This false premise was strongly pushed by the new left in the 60’s and 70’s to demoralize the police or college officials or anyone else who tried to stop them. When the protesters occupied a building, or blocked a street, or surrounded a public facility to prevent entrance, they were using”non-violent” means of expression to make a point. If anyone tried to stop them, or arrest them, then it was those people who were using force in violation of the protesters rights. The fact that anyone trying to use the building or street or whatever was physically stopped and frequently assaulted was then catoragized as self defense on the part of the protesters. This was especially effective when it included friendly media who showed protesters being dragged out of buildings etc., but never anything that they had done to damage the property or assault opponents. Claiming the rights of an ordinary citizen going about his business for a burglar, and then condemning the property owner for violence against the “victim”, is only one more bizarre manifestation of this moral inversion.

  • Pete

    -They won’t show up to stop the burglars.
    -They won’t expend the effort to look for the burglars once the crime is committed.
    -They won’t incarcerate the burglar if by some miracle they do catch him.
    -You are not allowed to defend your property.

    In effect, they’ve declared all private property to be common goods. You are in temporary possession of it, but with no right to it.

    They’ve reduced all private property to the level of a $5 bill lying on the sidewalk. If you drop it, you never really owned it and if you pick it up, you haven’t committed a crime.

  • Malcolm,

    I do not accept that the argument advanced by the Crown is correct in any respect. I cannot recall an incidence of someone being detained because they might be a threat to a specific class of criminals. If that is now public policy, then I submit that it stretches the bounds of reasonableness well beyond breaking point.

    I suspect that the true reason that the argument is being advanced is because our judiciary have spent the last 40 years or so enforcing the anti-self-defence doctrine to the point of absurdity and now find themselves boxed in by it. Being unable (or unwilling) to review their policy, they have no choice but to indulge in high-pitched silliness in order to maintain in the face of mounting public hostility and a co-terminous collapse in the capacity of state agencies (principally the police) to maintain everybodies personal safety.

    Having said that, I have a feeling that if Tony Martin is again refused parole (which appears likely) then it will on the grounds that he refuses to admit his guilt.

    This does not alter the fact that the Crown has hoist itself on its own petard. A system that cannot bend will, sooner or later, break.

  • Jeffersonian

    Does anyone else see the circular reasoning of the Home Office lawyers here?

    “It cannot possibly be suggested that members of the public cease to be so whilst committing criminal offences, and whilst society naturally condemns, and punishes such persons judicially, it can not possibly condone their (unlawful) murder or injury.”

    If the shooting of an intruder is definitionally murder, assault or mayhem, then of course one cannot shoot him since it is illegal. Of course, the solution for any reasonable person is to make it legal to do so and give every presumption of action possible to the property owner.

    As far as the Home Office is concerned, the law seems to have arisen from the chaos and ether, self-evident and immutable when, of course, we know this is rubbish.

  • S. Weasel

    This is as near as I can figure it. Those who promote gun control (i.e. are anti self-defense) accept that the police won’t always be able to defend the individual, but that limiting the use of lethal power to the authorities is the only way to prevent widespread civil disruption.

    Those who promote self defense accept that ordinary citizens won’t always make good choices (e.g. the occasional unbalanced yahoo will snap and shoot up a MacDonald’s) but that armed individuals historically have a smaller body count (by several orders of magnitude) than armed states with an unarmed citizenry.

    In other words, people fall into two camps:

    The right and power of the state to keep the peace is so vital to a civil society that we must accept some wrongful deaths to preserve the principle.

    The right and power of the individual to defend himself and his property is so vital to a civil society that we must accept some wrongful deaths to preserve the principle.

    I find it pretty each to choose between them. I imagine most people do, in whichever camp they find themselves.

  • From this:

    “In 1987 two men assaulted Eric Butler, a 56-year-old British Petroleum executive, in a London subway car, trying to strangle him and smashing his head against the door. No one came to his aid. He later testified, “My air supply was being cut off, my eyes became blurred, and I feared for my life.” In desperation he unsheathed an ornamental sword blade in his walking stick and slashed at one of his attackers, stabbing the man in the stomach. The assailants were charged with wounding. Butler was tried and convicted of carrying an offensive weapon.”

  • Guy Herbert

    Jeffersonian needs to bear in mind theat the Home Office uses “unlawful” in a somewhat different way from most people. It means “not done by servants of the state in the course of their duties”.

    Prosecutions of policemen and other officials in connection with injuries done to members of the public or their property are vanishingly rare.

    (Now we learn that Europol are to be de jure as well as defacto imune from prosecution for unlawful actions.)

  • Over here in NZ we’re seeing the ridiculous scenario of a farmer being tried for murder for shooting an armed robber in his driveway. He should be given a medal.

    The official line seems to be that if an armed robber comes onto your property, you should drop to the ground and assume the fetal position while your possessions are taken. Well, not me. I believe my property rights are important, and like that farmer, I will protect my property if the need arises.

  • whoops, stuffed my link up…

  • Malcolm

    David wrote:

    I do not accept that the argument advanced by the Crown is correct in any respect. I cannot recall an incidence of someone being detained because they might be a threat to a specific class of criminals. If that is now public policy, then I submit that it stretches the bounds of reasonableness well beyond breaking point.

    It has always been the policy of the Parole Board to consider the likelihood of future offence when considering whether to parole a convict.

    Let me be clear: I wasn’t saying that the Crown was correct in wanting to continue to detain Martin, nor that the Crown’s argument gave good support for detaining Martin. I was merely saying that the Crown’s argument presented by Perry, in which they said that being a burglar does not put you beyond all protection of law, was not absurd. Or does anyone here support sustained and continuing torture of burglars?

    Jeffersonian put his finger on the nub of the non sequitur: while burglars much plainly also have some protection of law, that doesn’t mean the same protection that everybody else gets. It is quite sustainable to say that shooting a burglar is acceptable, but capturing him and using him as a slave for 20 years is not.

  • Matt

    “The case could help hundreds of criminals bring claims for damages for injury suffered while committing offences.”

    I haven’t studied law, but am I sure that in the UK a criminal cannot profit from his crime. How can they therefore be able to claim damages?

  • But Malcolm, as not even the Parole Board were suggesting Martin was planning to enslave future burglars, I fail to see what point you are making. The Parole Board feel he may use lethal force again if confronted by burglars.

    The ONLY thing in question here is the right to defend your property from a direct intrusion by using violence. Anything else is, as you pointed out yourself in your first comment, a straw man argument.

    My article is based not on the premise that a burglar has NO legal rights, just that one of the right he does indeed forgo is the right to not suffer violence at the hands of whoever is defending that property within the context of his intrusion and crime.

  • “As Dr. Sigmund Freud has observed, it can not even be said that the State has ever shown any disposition to suppress crime, but only to safeguard its own monopoly of crime.”
    — Albert J. Nock , “Our Enemy, The State, 1935

  • dave fordwych

    As I have been saying for a long time there is an enormous opportunity for the Tory party here.[it is available to any party but the Tories are the only serious party who might conceivably take it]

    The entire criminal justice system in Britain needs to be overhauled and rebalanced in favour of the victim.In particular the principle that a burglar gives up most of his rights when he deliberately enters private property needs to be re-established and the householder freed to take whatever steps he feels are necessary to defend his property and family.

    The first political party to have the guts to propose this will reap a rich harvest but more importantly they will be returning common sense to the application of the law and making this a safer country.

  • I too feel it is wrong this man should be prosecuted for harming an intruder.

    Do not underestimate sheer laziness as a motive for the authorities …. the harming of the intruder is an easier crime to solve and prosecute than even finding out what the intruder was doing there, never mind stopping other burglars entering other people’s homes.

    Do bear in mind though one caveat which Malcolm has picked up on: is it always clear you have entered someone’s private property?

    There have in the past been cases of people being shot and killed by property owners for walking up a path or crossing a field that they sincerely thought was public space. I’m sure it was clear in this recent case – but is it always clear when I have left the protection of public space?

  • The govt, which can only exist by taking money and property from you by force, wants to discourage you from resisting when anyone tries to take money or property from you by force.


    Sheep are easier to rule, and the govt identifies with the criminals instead of with you.

  • MLD

    Oh good Lord – we in the West are developing a culture where actions are not expected to have any negative consequences. “It cannot possibly be suggested that members of the public cease to be so whilst committing criminal offenses.” No, but at the moment they become criminals, they are not quite the public are they? I’m sure there have been battered women cases that have used self-defense arguments for acts of violence by women against abusive and potentially murderous partners. If this man felt threatened, how is it any different?

    At this rate, we will be teaching our children that if you put your hand in a fire, you may or may not get burned, depending on the OSHA regulation. Sheesh.

  • Devilbunny

    mark –

    Well, if there was no sign of human habitation (plowed fields, structures, fences, walls, or signs saying “No trespassing”), I think there would be a good claim that a reasonable person would consider the land public. Otherwise, no.

    Out of curiosity, how much truly public land is there in the British countryside? The US is full of public and quasi-public lands, such as state and national parks and forests, but it had always been my impression that there wasn’t much that was publicly owned and accessible in the UK.

  • Some British police higher-up (I don’t have the reference) is on record as saying not to expect burglars to be caught and jailed, because the cops have their hands full with all the murders. But you cannot shoot burglars.

    Tax collectors obviously won’t be jailed, and you cannot shoot them either. By giving burglars basically the same protection (yea, they’ll toss a robber in jail every now and then for show) as tax collectors, isn’t the British govt making a backhanded admission that tax collection is no different than robbery?

  • Michael Sharon

    An appalling case which I, like most Americans, find very hard to understand. I urge interested parties to send Tony Martin a letter of support at:

    HMP/YOI Highpoint Stradishall
    Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 9YG

  • Phil Jackson

    >Out of curiosity, how much truly public land is there in the British countryside?

    Well, quite a few national parks but, more significantly, there are extensive public “rights of way”: there are few farms which don’t have at least some of these crossing them. These paths are ancient but are still actively used by hikers. Landowners are required by law to keep them free of obstruction (I maybe wrong but I believe such “rights of way” over private land don’t exist in USA) .

    However, I don’t see this as a real problem – the paths are always shown clearly on maps and are generally well sign-posted. Reasonableness is the criterion here – in this instance (and similar cases) the burglar was clearly not exercising a “right-of-way” through Martin’s house.

  • Malcolm,

    As regards torturing a captive burglar, I think most libertarians believe that there is a world of difference between instinctively acting in self-defence and inflicting pre-meditated suffering.

    The probloem is that UK law does not even permit instinctive self-defence anymore.

  • “It cannot possibly be suggested that members of the public cease to be so whilst committing criminal offences…”

    Um, certainly it can It can not only be suggested, it can be asserted.

    The operative point is WHILE committing criminal offenses. Once they are no longer committing criminal offenses, then they become a member of the public again. While engaged in criminal offenses they are not members of the public, they are, in effect, “enemy combatants”. Enemies of the public, that is. While there should be law that applies to such people, to state that they enjoy the full force and protection of the law while engaging in crime is ludicrous.

    The examples given in previous comments about what crime victims are allowed to do to criminals after the fact rather misses the point. No one is arguing for the right to torture, or even hunt down and shoot, a burglar after he has made his escape. What is being argued is the right of a citizen to take action in self-defense.

    There is a common argument that actions against burglars are not “self defense”. I reject this. My life is not infinite, and I only obtain goods by exchanging a portion of my life for money. If you then steal the goods I have purchased with that money, you have, in effect, stolen those hours and days that I traded for that money. Hours and days that are permanently gone from my count, and which cannot be restored by any power of this Earth. You have murdered me, in a small way.

    I resent this very much. I claim the same inalienable right of self-defense for my property that I claim for my body.

    If Mr. Martin represents a danger to burglars, then that is a Good Thing. Burglars are the enemy of the public, and Mr. Martin is doing no more than defending the public (by defending himself).

    The position of the Home Office is ridiculous and specious.

  • Katherine

    What I don’t understand is why more ordinary British citizens did no turn to crime as a viable business alternative. It clearly has more legal protection than any other enterprise, is tax-free and nobody will bother to interfere with it, as the Brits are rendered completely defenseless by the anti-gun laws there. If the business in Silicon Valley will not pick up soon I will to move to England, become a burglar and retire on profits in couple of years.

  • David Packer

    We are fast approaching a situation here where the instinctive reaction of a British householder to knocking out a burglar in their home will not be “ring the Bobbies” as it used to be, but “get the bin bags and butcher’s knives”.

    We may not top law and order league tables under the Blair regime, but at least the fish won’t go hungry.

    Unless, of course, the lawyers that run this country come up with a scheme. Maybe members of the burgling community should be able to leave a list of addresses that they intend to turn over with the local Plod, just in case they don’t make it home.

    On the other hand, perhaps we’re missing a trick here; the great majority of burglars in the UK are white. Surely this unwarranted concern for the welfare of burglars constitutes racial discrimination…

  • We could make the whole issue moot, and offer Tony Martin asylum in the United States.

    Hell, around where I live, they’d give him the keys to the town.

    Whacking goblins is an old, respected sport here — except for places which have “the British disease”: New York City, Chicago, San Francisco etc.

  • Stephen Hodgson

    This lack of acknowledgement of property rights (assuming they do still exist, at least in theory, in the UK) by the government is now deeply ingrained in some elements of British society and seems to be have seeped into all areas of government. It is a terrible injustice that Martin was sent to jail for exercising what most reasonable people would imagine is a basic right – that of self-defence. However, since Martin’s prosecution I’ve dreaded to think how I could go about defending myself or my property in any sensible fashion without later being prosecuted for doing so.

    The examination for unit one of A-Level “General Studies” (entitled “Culture, Morality, Arts and Humanities”) which school policy dictated I had to sit in January 2003 was based largely on Tony Martin’s case, so I found it very easy to get into. However, the material made available as “sources” to guide less-knowledgable students comprised largely of excerpts from newspaper articles which verged on describing Martin as a ruthless murderer with no respect for human life.

    I seem to remember that one question was based entirely around identifying why Martin had no right to shoot at trespassers. However, I answered the entire paper from a libertarian perspective… and much to my surprise when I received the results in March I had achieved 100%.

    I do worry about what some other students may have been led to believe about Martin’s actions and what they may subsequently have written. No doubt more than a few people will have been in favour of giving Martin a life sentence for murder – based on what I know of how some students at my school ‘think’.

  • Guy Herbert

    Phil Jackson may have confused some American readers. National Parks in Britain aren’t publicly owned land, but areas where private landowners are under greater restrictions than usual concerning their use of their own property.

  • Devilbunny

    Guy –

    Thank you, and I might add that quite a lot of National Forest land (in the eastern US, at least) is similar; the title is mixed public and private, but building structures (other than deer-hunting stands and the like) is prohibited.

  • Tom

    Tony Martin made only one mistake. He let the burglar live. What he should have done is given the burglar two in the hat. After all, dead men tell no tales.

  • Tom

    Tony Martin made only one mistake. He let the burglar live. What he should have done is given the burglar two in the hat. After all, dead men tell no tales.

  • Tom

    Tony Martin made only one mistake. He let the burglar live. What he should have done is given the burglar two in the hat. After all, dead men tell no tales.