15 Feb 2016 – Norfolk Police has admitted that they did not find any illegally held guns in controversial farmer Tony Martin’s possession after arresting him on New Year’s Eve 2015.
In a statement released last Friday afternoon, the police force revealed they “seized a firearm [sic], which was believed to be an air weapon” from Martin back in December 2015.
“Following further enquiries, it was deemed not to be a viable weapon due to its condition,” said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Coller last week.
In law this would mean the seized item is not a firearm at all, if it is “not viable”. UK Shooting News emphasises this in order to make clear that the police press release quoted above is untrue and repeated here purely for information.
On 31st December last year police carried out a “planned operation” to raid Martin’s Wisbech home, having advertised it to the media to obtain maximum publicity over the quiet New Year period. Martin’s alleged crime was, in comments he made to a newspaper on the 30th about the fatal shooting of a pensioner in a care home, to have said words to the effect of, “Do I still have a gun? You’ll have to find out, won’t you.”
Despite the blitz of self-induced publicity at the outset, police refused to say anything else after the launch of the raid had made headlines, suggesting constables realised very quickly that they had blundered.
Local businessman Malcolm Starr said, the day after the raid, that the real reason Martin was targeted was not because of the firearm allegation. Starr told the Daily Telegraph: “[Local police employees] think he has shown them disrespect, so it seems now they have got it in for him and they’ve said to themselves, we had better be showing the public that we take this matter seriously.”
After arresting Martin on suspicion of possessing an illegal firearm, police used powers from section 18 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to search his farm and other premises – meaning they did not need to apply to a court for a warrant to do so.
From media comments to arrest took two days; the search of the farm seemed to take up most of 31st December. It then took police six full weeks to admit what should have been obvious from the moment they found the rusty old airgun: Martin was not in possession of an illegally held firearm at all.
While Martin is, for gun law purposes, undoubtedly a wrong’un (by which I mean, thanks to his manslaughter conviction, he is subject to a lifetime ban on possessing firearms), it looks like he’s obeyed the law perfectly well here – at least, since he shot dead a burglar in 1999 .
Martin’s recent media comments could be interpreted in many ways (“I’ve got a gun but I’m only hinting at it; I’ve got a gun and you’ll find out when I shoot you; I’ve not got a gun but I’m putting up a bit of public bravado so I don’t get burgled again”) a police raid seems a heavy-handed response to someone essentially bullshitting to make himself look good.
Naturally, while heavy-handed, the police response, led by a press release, makes perfect sense when you remember that PR – meeting the perception that ‘something must be done’, even when that perception only exists in a police employee’s head – is the most important policing purpose of all. Promotions and payrises do not happen by themselves.
Police use of section 18 of PACE to evade other laws which require them to get a judge’s permission to do something is a well-documented phenomenon. Had they presented their case to a magistrate, this PR-driven charade could have been nipped in the bud.
In answer to Martin’s original rhetorical question, it’s now plain to everyone that he doesn’t have a gun – and it’s to be hoped that the rumoured price on his head from the travelling community was only a rumour after all.