15 Jan 2008

Remember Brent Martin

(Thanks to Dave Hingsburger, for bring this to my attention. It wasn't mentioned in the national news sources I follow.)

Last August, Brent Martin, a 23 year old man with a learning disability, was beaten to death in an English city. One of his attackers is currently on trial for the murder, the other 2 having already pleaded guilty to murder. The prosecutor is quoted in a local newspaper as saying;

"They behaved like a pack of animals as they repeatedly punched, headbutted, kicked and stamped on Brent Martin – and that man, Brent Martin, never lifted an aggressive finger towards one of them.

"They did that to him until he was dead."

Mr Hedworth said the 17-year-old was one three assailants who carried out the attack.

The others, William Hughes, 21, of Washington Road, Sunderland, and a 16-year-old youth, who cannot be named, have each admitted murder.

"The three of them were, from start to finish, in it together," said Mr Hedworth.

"They did it for their own sport."

The defendant and the 16-year-old had each trained as amateur boxers and knew the consequences of violence, Mr Hedworth added.

"They set out quite deliberately to do serious harm to Brent Martin for their own amusement and to make themselves look big in front of their friends, even inviting others to hit him.

"As the attack went on its nature, its ferocity, and its perseverance made it quite clear they were not going to be happy till he was dead.

"Subsequently one or more may have regretted they went as far as they did but at the time they had no such sensibility – no restraint, no qualms and no mercy."

The court was told all three youth were bragging and "seemed pleased with themselves" immediately after the attack.

This was a disability hate crime. I can only hope that sentencing will reflect the terrible nature of this crime, and the need to challenge discrimination against disabled people.

I have just read that the Scottish government plan to update their hate crime laws to include attacks on people due to their disability or sexual orientation. Northern Ireland hate crime laws already cover attacks due to disability. I also just came across an organisation called Respond who seem to be doing good work (I have merely browsed their web site) and who are in favour of more recognition for the offence of disability hate crime. They have discussed the murder of Brent Martin in their evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into the human rights of adults with learning disabilities.

What can we do about this? There are people who feel it is acceptable to harass or physically attack people for all sorts of reasons. How can we do our bit to make such behaviour less common and to promote respect and decent treatment of everyone? I've been told that I can't change the world and I should try to help Duncan (because obviously I worry about people taking advantage of or hurting him when he's grown up) progress as much as possible. Presumably this is so he stands out less and is not so much of a target.

I think this attitude excuses the people who commit the crimes from responsibility. It's the same approach that says women who are raped are sometimes at least partially responsible for dressing wrong/being in the wrong place/putting themselves in danger, when really it is always all the rapist's fault because it is always wrong to rape someone, no matter what they are wearing or have been drinking or whatever.

Over the few years, I have been reading about disability issues. Every time something comes up in the mainstream news sources and discussion forums, I have been appalled at the attitude of many people who would think of themselves as decent and/or liberal, but who seem to see disabled people, especially those with a learning disability as much less worthy of their respect and understanding. They talk about 'mental ages,' describe people as 'vegetables,' excuse unethical medical interventions. There's a blog I read occasionally; the author recently wrote a post explaining why he was going to continue to use the word 'retard' whenever he wanted and slagging off the 'PC brigade' who might be offended. Jeez. Now these people would not go out and beat up their neighbours with learning disabilities, but it all promotes a culture where it's acceptable to make fun of people for being different, and in which some thugs take things a bit further and do real harm.

I'm like an ant shouting in a shoebox here for all the difference this will make. I can only try my best in my own life, raise my children to be respectful and understanding and challenge the discrimination when I see it.

My thoughts are with the family of Brent Martin. RIP Brent.


Patrick said...

Brent, Katie, and soo many others, too many.

Sharon McDaid said...

Yes Patrick, far too many.

Allie said...

Sharon, that got me weeping at work. There will always be those who blame the victims of hate crime, of all sorts. "If he hadn't been so camp/gone to that district/worn that symbol of his beliefs/talked so loud/signed to his friends/been alone..." Lurking beneath such justifications is always the tacit acceptance that 'differences' are inevitably threatening and dangerous.

If we can't hope for a world free of hate crime then I don't think there's much worth hoping for at all.

Anonymous said...

This sickened me to my stomache, I have a sone who has learning difficulties and I worry about letting him out becuase of things like this. I have been working for the last 10 years to raise awareness of the discrimination of disabled children who are devalued, thought of as less and a burden. The so clled, non - disabled YOBS who killed this poor man are the scum of the earth I would not swop my son for a so called 'normal' scumbag like them.

also I was annoyed that this story recieved no space at all on the aol website it should be front page and the yobs that killed him and their family who tried to cover up for them should be exposed for the scum they are. I hope they all rot in hell.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I totally agree with you both (Allie and Anonymous). I first heard about this story on the news and then read about it the following morning. Words can not describe how I felt after reading the article.

To say I've been weeping silently ever since is an understatement. We live in a so called "Developed world" and yet we've got animals like these roaming our streets.

I too have a son with learning difficulties and even though he's only 7, I worry so much for his safety and how he'll cope independently in this harsh world.

To Martin's family, all I can say is may the good lord give you strength to cope with your loss.

And to poor, poor Martin - may your gentle soul rest in perfect peace (till the last day when we shall all meet the lord and to part no more from our loved ones).

And to the perpertuaters of this evil crime, they deserve to hang and suffer - may they burn in hell for all eternity.

Sharon McDaid said...

Well the case ended with a guilty verdict and the judge has informed the 17 yo that he will face a life sentence. There is thankfully, no capital punishment in the UK. Although we are all disgusted with the callous and hateful actions of the murderers, I cannot agree with people writing here that they "deserve to hang and suffer- may they burn in hell for all eternity."

I hope they serve long prison sentences, and their guilt remains with them for the rest of their lives.

david said...

This case has horrified and disgusted me. I still can't really believe that there are people out there that can take this kind of pleasure from hurting another person, especially one so vulnerable.

My deepest thoughts and sympathies go out to the family of Brent Martin. Prison for these people are a joke. I have to agree with Lizzy nothing in our justice system is adequate enough to punish this scum. i'm not even sure if the death penalty would be punishment enough, and living with their guilt certainly isn't.

I hope they suffer every day of their hopefully short lives for the devastation and pain they have brought to the Martin family.Rest in peace Brent, thinking of you and your family in my heart.

Anonymous said...

Crimes like this make me hate the Council of Europe! (For their prohibition of capital punishment, of course...)

Anonymous said...

I just found out about this horrific crime from the bbc website. My condolences to Brent's family. Those young hooligans will learn to regret their actions as they rot in jail for hopefully a very long time.

Rollingfruitbats said...

Have a look at the cartoon comment of Crippen - Disabled cartoonist regarding the news that the thugs who killed Brent have had their sentences reduced!