A judge said the case of a pre-op transsexual who had consensual sex with two teenage boys was one of the most difficult cases of his career.

Judge Philip Clegg showed mercy to Perry Hockley, 18, of Norfolk Avenue, Leigh, who had oral sex with two 14-year-old boys after meeting them through a mutual friend.

Stephanie Farrimond, prosecuting, said one of the boys bragged to his school friends about his experience with Hockley in a Southend alleyway.

At Basildon Crown Court, Judge Clegg sentenced Perry to ten months in a young offenders' institution, suspended for two years.

He told Hockley: "I have found this to be one of the hardest and most difficult cases I have had to deal with in nearly 20 years sitting as a judge.

"Although it may be very difficult for the parents of the children to accept, there is compelling evidence that both boys consented to what took place.

"It may be because they genuinely thought you were a girl ... or because they regarded you as some sort of sexual curiosity. You were in a situation that I do not think many people would envy."

Judge Clegg accepted that Hockley had psychologically felt himself to be female ever since he was a small child.

He added: "For most of your life, you have worn women's clothes and you live as a woman. You look like a woman, no doubt you feel and act like a woman, and to be in such a situation must be very difficult."

Judge Clegg also accepted Perry believed the boys were 16 and that sending him to a male prison would be extremely difficult for him to cope with.

Hockley, who pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual activity with a child between November 24, 2005 and March 8 this year, was also ordered to carry out 100 hours' community service and sign on the sex offenders' register for ten years.