TWO deaf sisters from Herefordshire who sexually abused a young boy over a period of 10 years have escaped immediate prison sentences after a judge said their condition would make them “completely isolated” in jail.

Their suspended sentences were given despite a statement to the court from their victim saying the sexual assaults had a “profound effect” on him, leaving him with flashbacks and nightmares.

Julie Fellows, aged 30, of Llewellin Road, Kington - now pregnant after earlier suffering a stillbirth - who engaged in sexual activity with the boy from when he was six until he was a teenager, could have faced six years or more in jail for her offences.

But, instead, Judge Robert Juckes QC gave her two years, suspended for 24 months, during which time she will be under the supervision of the probation service.

Sister Jennifer, aged 32, of Hatton Gardens, Kington, now mother of a three-year-old son, abused the same victim and was given a one-year sentence, suspended for 12 months.

Both women have been ordered to attend a specified activity programme for 30 days, to include work to tackle their sexual offending and “victim empathy”.

Julie, who denied indecent assault and sexual activity with a child but was found guilty by a jury, was also told to pay £1,000 towards costs.

Worcester Crown Court had heard that she ended up having full sex with the boy when he was about 15 at the home she then shared with her boyfriend, although Judge Juckes said there was “genuine affection” between them.

Jennifer, who admitted gross indecency with a child and inciting the boy to engage in sexual activity, was ordered to pay £250 costs.

The pair, who were both teenagers when they began abusing the boy, are now on the sexual offenders’ register.

Judge Juckes said the abuse had been a “depressing and disturbing feature” of the sisters’ lives in Kington and Leominster and was the kind of offending that the public found “repulsive”.

But he added he had received letters saying they were both “caring”, helping local deaf children to cope with their conditions, and they had “characters not normally associated with predatory sex offences”.

The judge said he had been impressed by the speed of the communication between the sisters and sign language interpreters brought into court to make sure they understood the proceedings.

But, in jail, he doubted there would be such assistance for them.

“A prison sentence would lead to complete isolation for the length of time you were there,” Judge Juckes told the sisters.

Earlier the court heard from Adam Western, for Julie, and Abigail Nixon, for Jennifer, that both women had been sexually abused themselves by an adult when they were young.