A judge has shown mercy to a 59-year-old farmer convicted of possessing firearms, components and ammunition without a certificate after hearing how his business was plagued by foxes. Leonard Chappell, who runs an organic chicken farm near South Molton, Devon, lost his firearms and shotgun certificates after he assaulted a man he believed to have been in possession of property stolen from his farm, but failed to hand over three of his firearms, which were later seized by police. Robert Linford, defending Mr Chappell, said that following the loss of his guns he had struggled to control foxes and had lost more than 300 birds. Handing down a four-month prison sentence suspended for one year, Judge John Neligan said: ?I have to pass a prison sentence given the current climate towards fi rearms. I have to send out a clear message, but the mitigation is such that it would be quite wrong to make it immediate.?