AN ELECTRICAL engineer caught masturbating in his car outside a war memorial by a shocked mother has been slammed by a judge for his 'disgusting level of disrespect'.

Burnley Crown Court heard the victim was walking down the steps in Memorial Park, Church Lane, Great Harwood, with her 12-year-old daughter when she saw defendant Anthony Watts committing the lewd act in his car.

The court heard it was about 2.25pm on November 18 – just a week after Remembrance Sunday – and there were playing fields on the other side of the road.

Prosecuting, Wayne Jackson said: "The victim saw the defendant in the driver's seat, with his phone in his left hand and his penis in his right hand.

"It seemed obvious he was masturbating at some speed. She managed to distract her daughter.

"At which point the defendant must have seen her because he covered up his penis, before driving off and parking up again."

The court heard the victim was so enraged she returned to the scene and took a photograph of the defendant and the registration plate of his car, which ultimately led to his arrest.

Mr Jackson said: "In police interview he accepted he had been masturbating.

"He said he didn't mean to shock anybody, he didn't realise the road was not secluded and didn't realise how busy it was or that children would be in the area."

In a statement to the court, the victim said she was left feeling horrified, disgusted and violated.

Mr Jackson added: "Quite frankly she no longer feels like walking through the park. She is disgusted.

"Her children are no longer allowed to walk through the park on their own."

Watts, 31, of Hanson Street, Great Harwood, pleaded guilty to outraging public decency.

The court heard he had two previous convictions for five offences, including a 2014 police caution for attempting to engage in sexual activity with a child.

The court heard that related to text messages Watts had been sending to an underage girl he said he thought was 18.

But the court heard when he found out her real age he had ceased communication with her.

Defending, David Prowse said his client was a hard-working man who had never intended to cause anyone alarm or distress.

Mr Prowse said: "He has expressed embarrassment and shame for what he did, having sat in the car and cried for an hour because of what he did.

"He realises it's an offence of some magnitude and children could have seen him.

"He is sorry for that. It is extremely unlikely this court will ever see him again."

Judge Simon Medland QC said: "On the afternoon of November 18, 2018, you decided to park your motor vehicle and begin masturbating.

"You had parked your vehicle next to a pavement in a public recreation space and, offensively, you parked opposite a war memorial.

"You obviously gave absolutely no thought to anyone or anything by way of anyone's sensibilities or how they might be offended.

"Your only concern was to gratify yourself sexually in public.

"Apart from the disgusting level of disrespect you showed by so conducting yourself opposite a war memorial, you did it in an area that a passing member of the public who had a child with her saw what you were doing.

"She was disgusted and offended as any right-thinking person would have been."

Watts was given a 12-month community order, with 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days, a two-month curfew and ordered to pay £150 prosecution costs.

The curfew runs from 9pm to 6am Monday to Saturday. The court heard Watts got up at 4am on a Sunday to work on a market stall run by the family of his partner, who supported Watts in court.