You’re sound asleep when you hear a thump outside your bedroom door.
Half-awake, and nearly paralyzed with fear, you hear muffled whispers.
At least two people have broken into your house and are moving your way.
With your heart pumping, you reach down beside your bed and pick up your shotgun.
You rack a shell into the chamber, then inch toward the door and open it.
In the darkness, you make out two shadows.
One holds something that looks like a crowbar.
When the intruder brandishes it as if to strike, you raise the shotgun and fire.
The blast knocks both thugs to the floor.
One writhes and screams while the second man crawls to the front door and lurches outside.
As you pick up the telephone to call police, you know you’re in trouble.
In your country, most guns were outlawed years before, and the few that are privately owned are so stringently regulated as to make them useless..
Yours was never registered.
Police arrive and inform you that the second burglar has died.
They arrest you for First Degree Murder and Illegal Possession of a Firearm.
When you talk to your attorney, he tells you not to worry: authorities will probably plea the case down to manslaughter.
“What kind of sentence will I get?” you ask.
“Only ten-to-twelve years,” he replies, as if that’s nothing.
“Behave yourself, and you’ll be out in seven.”
The next day, the shooting is the lead story in the local newspaper.
Somehow, you’re portrayed as an eccentric vigilante while the two men you shot are represented as choirboys.
Their friends and relatives can’t find an unkind word to say about them..
Buried deep down in the article, authorities acknowledge that both “victims” have been arrested numerous times.
But the next day’s headline says it all:
“Lovable Rogue Son Didn’t Deserve to Die.”
The thieves have been transformed from career criminals into Robin Hood-type pranksters..
As the days wear on, the story takes wings.
The national media picks it up, then the international media.
The surviving burglar has become a folk hero.
Your attorney says the thief is preparing to sue you, and he’ll probably win.
The media publishes reports that your home has been burglarized several times in the past and that you’ve been critical of local police for their lack of effort in apprehending the suspects.
After the last break-in, you told your neighbor that you would be prepared next time.
The District Attorney uses this to allege that you were lying in wait for the burglars.
A few months later, you go to trial.
The charges haven’t been reduced, as your lawyer had so confidently predicted.
When you take the stand, your anger at the injustice of it all works against you..
Prosecutors paint a picture of you as a mean, vengeful man. It doesn’t take long for the jury to convict you of all charges. The judge sentences you to life in prison.
This case really happened.
On August 22, 1999, Tony Martin of Emneth, Norfolk , England , killed one burglar and wounded a second.
In April, 2000, he was convicted and is now serving a life term..
How did it become a crime to defend one’s own life in the once great British Empire ?
It started with the Pistols Act of 1903.