A mother whose son was sexually abused by his scout leader has appealed to other abuse victims to summon up the courage to speak out.

Joseph Delgado, 53, plied teenage boys with alcohol and sexually abused them as they slept next to him during scout camping trips and overnight fundraising events ten years ago. One of the two victims, who were aged 14 and 15, awoke to find Delgado performing a sex act upon him.

The mother of one of them said she was relieved that Delgado is now on the sexual offenders' register for life.

"If you have been abused in any way, tell someone. It doesn't have to be your parents. My son went to some friends and then to the police.

"I was very upset and shocked that it had happened to him, that he was involved. I think he's certainly a lot happier since he was able to pluck up the courage to tell us. Now he can put this all behind him. He hadn't come forward because of the embarrassment.

"He said to me he thought the abuse was part of being an adventure scout. It was only after that he realised he was being abused. How does a 14-year-old know the difference between abuse and early sexual experience? A 14-year-old is really mixed up."

Delgado, 53, of Riverdene, Edgware, is a former schoolteacher and was a scout leader for 30 years, including 16 years as assistant district commissioner of the Hendon and Edgware Scouts. He was jailed for five years on Tuesday (Dec 2) at Harrow Crown Court.

He had denied abusing the two boys, claiming they had dreamt it. He bowed his head and wept in front of his wife and daughter as he was convicted of four counts of indecent assault in 1995 and 1996.

Passing sentence, Judge Roger Sanders told him that his offences had tainted the wonderful work of the scout movement. He said: "A breach of trust of this kind permeates through the whole movement."

Andrew Jackson, prosecuting, said scout leaders had to have separate sleeping accommodation.

He said: "He was able to exercise considerable control over the boys in his care for his own sexual gratification.'' Charges of buggery against Delgado have now been dropped, in light of the conviction.

He was found not guilty of two other counts of assault relating to two other boys. He claimed one of these boys had been abused, but not by him.

The mother of the boy abused as a 14-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, added that she was disappointed with the Scout Association. She said: "In the trial, things came out, like there would be a lot of drinking going on at camp," she said.

"We got the impression from the trial that people from the Scout Association were aware that this was going on. Delgado was obviously disobeying the rules. I think the Scout Association should have acted sooner than that."

Barry Manley, district commissioner for Hendon and Edgware Scouts, said: "I was unaware of what was going on. Things were done quite discreetly.

"What has come to light in this court case has been stuff that has happened over ten years ago. Now, there's no way that we can take a group of scouts away without at least two adults."

He added that the age groups are now split up so alcohol is not consumed unless the camp is for 18 to 25-year-olds.

Detective Constable Paul Thomas, from the child protection team at Barnet police, said: "It has taken us two years to get the conviction. It is a tremendous outcome, especially for the lads who have gone through it, especially to be believed. They are more than happy, they are overjoyed."