TWO brothers who hung around with a "feckless" group of people "with no purpose in their lives" have admitted setting fire to a church.

Bolton Reformed Anglican Church in Beta Street, School Hill, suffered about £850 of damage in the arson attack on March 19, 2012.

Nicholas Flanagan, prosecuting, said brothers Scott Withington, aged 27, and Thomas Withington, aged 18, were spotted acting suspiciously in the early hours of the morning by a CCTV operator for Bolton at Home.

Police were alerted and smoke was seen coming from the back of the wooden church building.

The CCTV operator directed a police officer to an address to which the brothers had gone. Following a search of the property, the officer found a green petrol can and clothing that matched the description given by the operator.

Bolton Crown Court heard a fire investigation took place but firefighters were unable to say what caused the fire.

The Reverend Philip Rimmer, in a victim impact statement, said: “I can’t believe anybody would attack a place of worship. It is totally unacceptable, an example needs to be made of the people responsible.”

Scott Withington, of Spinners Mews, School Hill, Bolton, was said by Nick Ross, defending, to have changed the direction of his life since the crime and now has a fiancée and baby boy. He admitted arson.

Thomas Withington, of Milton Street, Eccles, was said by William Donnelly, defending, to have been associated with a group who were “feckless” with no purpose to their lives. He admitted arson.

Judge Peter Davies adjourned the sentencing until today.