A 23-year-old Watford man so feared moving to South Oxhey he bought a stun gun to protect himself and his family.

Lloyd Franklin purchased the prohibited weapon, disguised as a mobile phone, on the internet from America.

However, curious customs officers intercepted the package marked with the American spelling of 'self defense' addressed to Franklin in Hagden Lane, Watford, and he was arrested.

Franklin pleaded guilty to purchasing or acquiring a prohibited weapon at the magistrates' court and sentence was committed to the crown court because of the seriousness of the offence.

At St Albans Crown Court on Friday, David Chrimes, prosecuting, said during interview Franklin told police a friend used his computer and credit card because he wanted to buy a phone.

Mr Chrimes continued: "Half way through he changed his mind and came clean and gave the true account.

"He said he had been living in Watford and was due to move to South Oxhey.

"He perceived it to be so dangerous, because of the alleged racism in that area and high crime rate, that he felt he needed that item for self defence of himself and his family.

"That was the explanation he gave to police, although obviously that is not a lawful excuse."

Franklin has a similar previous conviction after spraying a CS gas canister during an incident in a Watford nightclub.

He was given a suspended prison sentence for that, which expired by the time of the latest offence.

He also has a caution for possession of an offensive weapon, when he was found with a CS gas canister on him.

Claire Howell, defending said Franklin had a "phobia" of being attacked.

Miss Howell said the fear stemmed from the family home being burgled as a child, when the family were out, and his father's fearful response.

Franklin was also affected by having "stood by" and watched a friend being attacked by a gang with a slab of concrete, which left the friend in hospital for two weeks, the court heard.

He was also bullied and those that had carried it out lived in South Oxhey.

Miss Howell said the father of a young baby, whose girlfriend was in court, was otherwise a good citizen, who had been in the same job five years.

She asked the court not to jail Franklin, but give him help to tackle his "genuine anxiety".

Judge Stephen Gullick imposed a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

Franklin must also attend the thinking skills programme with probation during 18 months of supervision.

Judge Gullick said in sentencing he had the difficulty of balancing the seriousness of the offence with the need for Franklin to receive help.

Judge Gullick said: "This offence is extremely serious.

"What you thought you were up to getting this mobile phone, which was a stun gun, is quite beyond me.

"The courts are quite rightly very concerned by the trend of young people equipping themselves with weapons like this and causing serious harm.

"If I send you to prison immediately that won't address the problem."

He added: "Your situation is extremely precarious. This is the third occasion you have been in possession of a weapon you should not have."