Bill Edwards, aged 21, and his mother, Louisa Smith, caught David Taylor in the act of stealing equipment on their farm near Scarborough last August.

Mr Edwards was compelled to use the shotgun he had been carrying for pest control to shoot at Taylor’s van — not at the thief — when he drove repeatedly at high speed straight at the pair.

After Taylor’s case was heard at Scarborough Magistrates Court, Mr Edwards said: “It is hard to find words to describe how ridiculous the sentence is. I’m absolutely disgusted. We have had four months of being treated like criminals only to see the real criminal let off with a measly fine which will be paid for by the taxpayer since he is on state benefits.”

In mitigation, Taylor’s defence solicitor argued that the thief had been “traumatised” by the incident.

Mr Edwards was eventually released from police bail after four months.

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