The announcement that a couple who shot at a gang of burglars who broke into their home will not be prosecuted has re-ignited the debate about how much force is reasonable when it comes to defending our properties.

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Times have changed since Tony Martin let fly with a pump action shotgun, killing a burglar and wounding another.

Compare and contrast his case with that of Andy and Tracey Ferrie, the couple arrested on Sunday after they took a leaf out of Mr Martin’s book and turned a gun on intruders.

Mr Martin, then in his mid-fifties, awoke to find burglars ransacking his remote farm house at Emneth Hungate, near Wisbech, in August 1999.

Petty thief Fred Barras, 16, died and accomplice Brendon Fearon, then 28, was peppered with buckshot after the bachelor fruit farmer opened fire.

Mr Martin was given a life sentence after a jury convicted him of murdering Fred Barras. The sentence was cut to five years and the conviction reduced to manslaughter on appeal, after the case sparked a national outcry and a debate about whether householders should be able to use force to defend their homes without fear of prosecution.

Andy and Tracey Ferrie were arrested in the early hours of Sunday after they dialled 999 and told police they had fired at a four-strong gang who broke into their remote cottage at Welby, near Melton Mowbray, Leics.

Four men were later arrested at a hospital in Leicester, two of them suffering what were described as non life-threatening gunshot wounds.

Yesterday Mr Ferrie, 35 and his 43-year-old wife were told they would not face charges in connection with the shooting.

So far the couple have not commented publicly on their release. Today their MP, Government minister Alan Duncan said he was delighted that the Crown Prosecution Service had “seen sense” by deciding to not take criminal action against the Ferries.

They were released on police bail on Tuesday as police announced that two men had been charged with burgling the Ferries’ property.

After studying evidence gathered by police, senior prosecutors announced they believed Mr and Mrs Ferrie had acted in reasonable self-defence during the incident and would not face charges.

Judith Walker, the Chief Crown Prosecutor for the East Midlands, said: “Looking at the evidence, it is clear to me that Mr and Mrs Ferrie did what they believed was necessary to protect themselves, and their home, from intruders.”

The decision came after Mr Duncan, MP for Rutland and Melton MP, said the real crime would be if the couple were prosecuted for defending their home.

After the announcement he said: “I’m delighted the CPS has seen sense and has exonerated them.The law has worked and so has the system. The focus must be on the burglars and not the victims. My constituents can hold their heads high.”

CPS officials has visited the couple’s remote property near Melton Mowbray to decide whether the accounts given by Mr and Mrs Ferrie were consistent with other evidence of what happened.

Ms Walker added: “I am satisfied that this is a case where householders, faced with intruders in frightening circumstances, acted in reasonable self-defence.”

The announcement came hours after two men appeared at Loughborough Magistrates’ Court charged with burglary.

What do you think..? Was Tony Martin right - should burglars forfeit their rights when they step inside someone else’s home..?

Vote in our poll or leave a comment. We’ll publish a selection in Saturday’s EDP.

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