A retired Catholic brother sentenced yesterday to 2 1/2 years' jail for sexually abusing sick and vulnerable boys in his care undertook a six-month treatment course for molesters in the 1990s.

The church had known about Brother Andrew Cody's offending for years, the Wellington District Court heard.

Judge Bruce Davidson said Cody told his superiors about the abuse several years after he retired in 1991. He was sent on a course in Australia to receive treatment.

Cody, 67, who lives in Upper Hutt, admitted two charges of indecent assault, one of doing an indecent act and one of permitting an indecent act to be done on him between 1981 and 1984.

Cody was a brother at Hato Paora, a Maori boys' Catholic secondary school at Feilding, doing administration work and helping to care for boys who became ill.

Crown prosecutor Nigel Stone said Cody was in a position to prey upon boys who were vulnerable when they were unwell.

Judge Davidson said that even though he was sure Cody would never re-offend, he would sentence him to 2 1/2 years' jail.

The judge said that although Cody, who suffers from heart disease and hypertension, would find prison difficult, there was a breach of trust because he had in part filled the role of parent to boys who were ill.

He said he could do no better than to read the words of one of the victims: "I have ... difficulty going to sleep. When I close my eyes I see my abuser's face."