Monday, September 22, 2003
Hoisted By His Own Petard
This weekend's Sunday Telegraph announced that Brendon Fearon, the raider whom happless farmer Tony Martin shot in the legs with his pump action shot gun, had had a "change of heart" and was now prepared to drop his action against Martin. Fearon is a career criminal , was released on licence at the same time as Martin but was sent back to prison for breaching his curfew conditions. He has also been in prison since for supplying heroin.
Fearon , to the astonishment of most reasonable people who felt that Martin was justified in defending himself and his property from the burglars who broke into his home in Norfolk, had the audacity to employ lawyers to make a claim against Martin on the grounds that his earning capacity (presumably from his career as a cheap and very unsuccessful small time criminal) as well as his quality of life, had been adversely affected since Martin shot him in the legs four years ago.
Fearon of course could not have funded a court case against Martin through his own means and used (and evidently now, abused) our generous and often misused Legal Aid Scheme to fund his further assault on the rights of Mr.Martin. What could have happened for this social parasite to have had a change of heart and wishing to drop the case? Had he found god ? No, it is far simpler than that. It turns out that Fearon was photographed riding a bicycle with apparent ease and the pictures were pasted all over the national newspapers. Thus, it became abundantly clear that his claims for having been disabled were a sham as we all instinctively guessed.( and many observers here felt that he got what he actually deserved having chosent break into Martin's home and having to suffer the consequences of a bad choice)
Br> But the slimeball's arrogance doesn't stop there. Any normal person would have held their hands up, known their game was up and would have quitely crawled back under the stone they came from. Not Fearon and his accomplices, the law firm Bathia Best who are playing legal games to the end. They have, it appears, written to Martin and stated that Fearon has had a "change of heart" and will drop the case, but only if Martin agrees to drop the counter claim against Fearon. What's more, lawyers acting on behalf of the slimeball are suggesting that the £110,000 raised by a tabloid newspaper in support of Martin should now be diverted to a charitable cause ( read not used aginst them to blow their counter claim case out of the water.)
Part of the logic of solicitors working on Fearon's is that litigation will, in the end, only benifit the lawyers and not either "injured" party. Since Fearon's solictor's are and will profit whatever the outcome, that line of justification is laughable. It is far more likely, that , because Fearon had been caught out and stupidly provided graphic evidence that he has not been impaired physically through injuries he got from Martin's gun, he would no longer have a case that is credit-worthy and thus would no longer be entitled to legal aid.
There is the gleeful prospect now that Martin won't accept this spurious offer and will continue his claim against Fearon although, the Telegrpah quotes one of Tony Martin's friends as saying he will accept the deal.
As an aside to this saga, we have imported what we call compensation culture from the United States, where people say involved in a road traffic accident and not actually injured, suddenly suffer from whip lash neck injury and make additonal claims against the other driver's insurers. It is seen by many as a perk of having a road accident. I recall two accidents I was involved in. I once ran into the back of a car which was slow to pull away from some traffic lights. I estimate tht I was doing ine or two miles an hour when my bimper clipped the giy in front. I got out, exchanged details and asked the guy if he was OK. He wasn't hurt at all and was completley happy having got my details he assured me. I learned later that the crooked driver had claimed whiplash injury as well as for minor damage to his car. I was astonished.
I was rear shunted once outside the Trafford Centre and my car was a write-off ( too badly damaged to be economically repaired.) Also my head shattered my windscreen,even though I was wearing a seat belt. I have very thick hair and I wasn't hurt in the slightest. I reckon I was accidentally rammed at a speed between 30 and 40 miles an hour as it happened by a very appologetic visiting German Landscape Gardening supplier for the Trafford Centre. Some of my friends told me I ought to claim for injury , given the evidence of the force of the impact and the damage to the car and the other driver admitting liablity. There was no way I was going to play that game. I have more self-respect and was more than happy just to have my car replaced.
Going back to the Tony Martin, Fearon case, I am not sure about the differences in the way the law interprets actions here and in the United States (where gun laws are much more lax and that must mean that the culture may be more inclined to regard shooting someone who inavades your property as a justifiable act of self-defence. Remember that, originally Tony Martin was charged and convicted of the murder of Fearon's sixteen year old accomplice and that only later, after a public outcry was that changed to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Both the Police and UK citizens are bound by the prinicple of reasonable force but also, in all legal cases, the level of culpability is measured by trying to asses whether an unlawful act was intentional or not. Did Fearon intend to actually kill the intruder or was it accidental? Certainly, Fearon was lucky just to be shot in the legs and the wounds suggest there was no intent to actual kill him.
Reasonable force ? That is very tricky to measure. I recently attended a Teacher Training Day on personal safety ( which I hope to write about in more depth at a later date with the co-operation of the two men that ran the course.) More and more , teacher face physical violence from wayward kids either aimed at them personally or at other pupils and they have a duty of care to intervene . We were only recently empowered to physically restrain kids who might otherwise damage property, other people or harm themselves. We were taught various skills which were essentially self defence but also made very aware of what right we had and how reasonable force is defined when restraining juvenilles. A simple example would be the holding of a pupils wrist to retrain them. Holding them with the thumb and fingers over the wrist is reasonable force, but holding with the fingers over the wrist
The two charming guys that ran this wonderfully enlightening course both work in very physically hostile environments and have long experience of working with volatile youngsters in secure units which deal with young offenders many of whom are physically violent. Thye had their own vocabulary which was revealing. They spoke of the "fighting arc" to define the area near a person close in where you were vulnerable to blows and taught a way of balancing yourself in a defensive posture where you could step into the danger zone but poised in such a way that you could withdraw keeping your balance and protecting yourself from blows from fists and feet at the same time! ( the window cleaners outside the school hall while we practiced these techniques were amazed at what all these teachers of different ages were doing!)
I came away with a workabl;e definition of what is reasonable force and it is not the defintion that makes me feel entirely comfortable. Reasonable force , it turns out, you should bear in mind at all times, is force that you are able to successfully justify in a coirt of law. that is the bottom line, remembering, for example that you may have to appear in court to justify the measures you took to restrain a pupil.
So there you are, in court, imagine the scene. You were stopping, lets say , hypothetically, some little horror brutally kicking some happless person on the ground, compleletly out of control. And there is the little horror, under five foot of skin and bones, all polite and scrubbed up wearing an insolent ,"innocent" look , pointing the accusing finger at you, a six foot four adult called to account by a compensation hungry parent ( who may very probably are completely unable to control their child, know that he is a little tyke but, hey , here is a golden earning opportunity)
I think the key here, in all these scenarious is self-respect and self-regulation but you have to be mindful of the law and that what is allowed may differ from your own personal code of conduct. You also have to be aware that the world is also full of people with their own agendas and no regard for the rights of others and who are completely mercenary in all their actions. If there is a compensation claim chance, their sub culture embodies the principal that, self respect is tied up in taking advantage of any loop hole that appears amd milk it for all it is worth. People like this have no notion of reasonable action and we need to bear that in mind. They are completely ammoral.
I may think I have acted reasonably, but a court of law might decide otherwise. It appears that Tony Martin was a vulnerbale person, very possbily with some learning difficulties. I professionally required to do constant " risk assessments" of situations where I have what is called duty of care for the kids I work with and that has to guide any interventions I may make or chose to make. Merely to shout a warning may normally free me from the risk of litigation should an incident happen in front of me. If I do anything beyond that I put myself at risk physically but even worse, I risk becoming the victim of our legal system.
What apals me is that a firm of solictors actually took Fearon's case on and it wasn't, in my view out of altruism or a wish to see justice done. It was about money. There are not many poor members of the legal profession you must notice, nor do they normally emerge from the lower stratum of our society and yet they are most often called upon to defend members of those subcultures who frequently offend against society. Their job is to work within the framework of law but so often they willingly take up lucrative high profile case where they happily defend the indefensible. We would not have developed this imported compensation culture were it not for the legal industry that now helps to maintains it for its own profit. The notion that the lawyers acting on behalf of Fearon in the flawed case against Martin were accomplices to a crime of deception is a tantalising one, but of course, they can't be brought to Justice because it appears there isn't any. Justice is a remote ideal ; the current Law is the reality and always falls short of the ideal, so an innocent person has to be even more careful these days to avoid coming within a mile of a court room and whatever you have done, guilty or not, you will be the loser and the legal profession, ultimately the only winners.
Etymological note :
The title of this article is a quaint English idiom , "Hoisted by your own petard."
Petard was originally a weapon of war for breaching defences, hence to be hoisted by your own petard was to be 'lifted' or blown up by you own weapon or bomb , similar in terms of the expression "shooting yourself in the foot." (Ironic here as Fearon was hoisted by his own petard and shot himself in the foot being seen riding a bike when he claimed that being shot by Martin in the legs had left him unable to live a normal life. I like the second variant of the word petard. Peter ( pronounced "pettay" is the French verb to break wind or more vulgarly " to fart" , hence, the idiom has a more colourful explanation, overwhelmed by your own bodily gases when you intended to stink out someone else's life as Fearon tried to do. That is "poetic justice" , quite rare these days, but delicious when it happens.
johncoxon 3:27 AM - [Link] - Comments ()