Socialist Worker

'Have a go' farmer is no hero

Issue No. 1694

'Have a go' farmer is no hero

THE RIGHT wing press have treated farmer Tony Martin, convicted last week of the murder of Fred Barras, as a "hero". Martin shot Fred Barras-and Brendon Fearon, who survived-when he caught them attempting to burgle his 350 acre farm. The Telegraph, the Times, the Sun and the Mail have launched a campaign to free Martin.

This is nothing but hypocrisy from papers which have never campaigned against any genuine miscarriage of justice, such as the Birmingham Six.

Newspapers say that Martin acted in self defence to protect his property.

But it is not an act of self defence to pound a pump action shotgun at two unarmed teenagers. Far from being unprotected, Martin had three rottweilers. He hid himself, waiting for burglars in the hope of being able to shoot them down. Martin shot Barras in the back as he was trying to get away. Barras's friend Brendon Fearon was hit by a total of 196 pellets.

Far from being a "hero", Martin was a racist. He boasted that "Hitler had the right idea about the Gypsies".

He talked of putting Gypsies in a field surrounded by barbed wire and machine-gunning them. He had spouted racism against travellers at public meetings, leading to him being called "Mad Man Martin" by locals. Martin was related by marriage to Andrew Fountaine, a founder of the Nazi National Front. Martin was a frequent visitor to Fountaine's 5,000 acre stately home, Narford Hall in Norfolk, where Fountaine organised regular Nazi summer camps.

The same papers which have run racist lies about Roma Gypsy asylum seekers used this prejudice to paint Fred Barras as dangerous.

The Sun's arch-bigot columnist Richard Littlejohn, for example, said of Martin, "True he hated Gypsies. He had every reason to hate them." Such views have been given credibility by Jack Straw, who accused travellers last year of being "thieves" and of "defecating in doorways".

Barras was not a dangerous criminal. He was a young man who grew up in poverty and turned to petty crime because he had no future. He was excluded from school when he was 12 and began working on a market stall. The press have listed 114 "crimes" committed by Barras and Fearon. But these are all for petty offences such as "drunk and disorderly" and "using a defective tyre". Barras's probation officer spoke praisingly of the teenager in a radio interview.

The press claim that members of the jury were intimidated by Barras's family.

As yet there is no proof of this. It must also be asked who is intimidating who in the local area? Many publicans exclude travellers, and landowners put up signs saying, "No scrap dealers"-a coded reference to travellers. Some of Martin's fellow farmers quoted in the press made openly anti-traveller comments. "They used to know their place but don't now," said one.

The right wing papers are playing on people's fears by exaggerating crime in rural areas.

Even the more liberal papers like the Guardian and the Observer say there need to be more police in rural areas. What rural areas need is not more police, but jobs paying above the minimum wage and community resources. But these issues do not concern the millionaire newspaper chiefs. Instead they are whipping up prejudice against travellers and calling for a crackdown on crime. They are putting the property of the rich above the life of a working class teenager.

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Sat 29 Apr 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1694
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