A FATHER told how he witnessed a 53-year-old man dressed in a sports bra and leggings performing a sex act on himself in a park where children were playing.

Car salesman Michael Cohen admitted exposing himself in East Hill Park, Portslade, where youngsters were taking part in an outdoor playgroup.

But at Brighton Magistrates Court, the father-of-two denied any sexual element, claiming he was scratching his private parts because of chronic athlete’s foot.

Witness John Bancroft dropped his son off at the Bee in the Woods playgroup at the park and then watched from his car as Cohen pulled down his underwear.

He told the court: “There were around 15 children aged two to four and their mothers and two workers who run the school.

“When I got back to the car facing the bench I saw a man wearing women’s sport clothing.

“It appears he had a lady sports crop top and leggings.

“He then started rearranging himself.

“He faced towards me and the park and pulled down his red knickers and started masturbating.”

Mr Bancroft alerted police who arrested Cohen.

Cohen said he had a fetish for wearing women’s clothing and skipped a day off work to take a run in the park in “a crop top exposing his belly fat” and tight running gear.

He said he had only exposed himself to scratch an itch on his private parts due to the fungal condition.

He said: “I have had athlete’s foot and in the summer months it is excruciating and leave me in terrible pain.

“Sometimes I had to go to work with no pants on.

“I decided it was painful at the time and I couldn’t run.

“I pulled my leggings down.”

Cohen demonstrated to the court the motion he used to scratch himself.

Asked by his solicitor Christopher Prior,if he knew there were other people in the park he said: “I did look to see and couldn’t see anybody.

“I didn’t even know there was a playgroup.”

The court heard Cohen had been spoken to on two previous occasions after people had reported him exposing himself in public places.

On June 2016 he was seen reportedly touching himself in a park near a playgroup.

In September that year he was seen reportedly masturbating in the street by a neighbour in the early hours.

On both occasions no action was taken by Sussex Police after he showed them his medical record and only received a talking to by police.

Cohen of Oakdene Crescent, Portslade, pleaded guilty to outraging the public decency on the basis he was not masturbating.

He has since lost his job over the incident.

Chairman of magistrates Dr Peter Sutton said he could not be sure beyond reasonable doubt the defendant was masturbating.

Cohen was given a community order for 12 months with 80 hours’ unpaid community with £170 costs and victim surcharge.