BROTHERS who set fire to a church have been spared immediate jail sentences.

Bolton Crown Court heard how Scott and Thomas Withington used petrol to set fire to the wooden Bolton Reformed Anglican Church in Beta Street, School Hill, on March 19, 2012.

A Bolton at Home CCTV operator had spotted the pair acting suspiciously and police were alerted as smoke was seen coming from the back of the church.

A police officer with a fire extinguisher put out the flames, which caused damaged estimated at £850.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Peter Davies described 18-year-old Thomas Withington as “cunning” and the instigator of the offence which involved his 27-year-old brother Scott, who has learning difficulties.

“Setting fires is dangerous and has a community impact,” Judge Davies told the brothers.

Both Scott Withington, of Spinners Mews, School Hill, and Thomas Withington, of Milton Street, Eccles, pleaded guilty to arson, with Thomas Withington also admitting theft and attempting to pervert the course of justice in relation to an unconnected case.

Because Thomas Withington had already spent time in jail on remand and was subject to a curfew, Judge Davies sentenced him to a three-year community order and told him he must do 200 hours unpaid work.

Scott Withington was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years and also ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work.