A foster dad who molested two teenage brothers has escaped a prison sentence so that he can receive sex offender treatment in the community.

The 61-year-old assaulted a 16-year-old boy he and his wife had fostered and his younger brother when he went to stay at the family’s Harpenden home.

After the visit in June last year NHS Direct received a phone call from the 13-year-old boy saying he had been “sexually touched” by the defendant, St Albans Crown Court heard on Friday.

The elder brother initially said nothing had happened to him, but two months later texted his natural mother “out of the blue” saying he wanted to come home, and that the same thing happened to him as his younger brother.

Social services, who sanctioned the foster arrangement, became involved and the police arrested the defendant at his home address on August 19, last year.

The man, who the court heard has “worked with the Boy Scouts” denied the allegations, only pleading guilty to two charges of sexual assault on the second day of trial.

We have taken the decision not to name the defendant to protect the identity of his young victims.

Sally Mealing-McLeod, prosecuting, said in June last year the defendant woke the youngest boy, who was sleeping in a spare room and asked if he wanted “tickle back”.

He proceeded to stroke the boy's back before sexually assaulting him, stopping when the boy said he did not like it.

Alone with the victim at breakfast the defendant promised: “I won’t do naughty stuff again”, the court heard.

The defendant’s 16-year-old foster child told police he woke in his bed to find the man he looked on as a father figure sexually assaulting him.

He rolled over and pretended to be asleep and the abuse stopped.

The following morning the teenager sent the text alerting his mother.

In an impact statement the boy, now aged 17, said he hoped his abuser would “go to prison” for what he had done.

However, sentencing guidelines recommend a prison sentence of around 18 months, which would mean the sex offender would be released without time to receive treatment, said Judge Martin Griffith, sentencing.

Judge Griffith ordered the defendant to take part in the Thames Valley Sex Offender Programme as part of a three-year community order.

In a pre-sentence report prepared by the probation service the defendant said he had “no sexual intent” in abusing the brothers, which was scoffed at by the judge.

Judge Griffith said: “I cannot imagine what other intention there would be by touching teenage boys.

“Be under no illusion, as far as I am concerned you could have no complaints if I sent you to prison.

“If you breach this order and come before me you will have had your chance and the only option will be an immediate custodial sentence.”

The defendant was banned from having contact with children under 16 and he must sign on the sex offenders’ register for five years.