A FLASHER was caught performing a sex act on a public pathway by an off-duty police officer.

The officer was jogging when she saw a man she recognised – Craig Beales – on the footpath in Layer-de-la-Haye.

She ran past him but on the return leg of her journey spotted him again walking with his bicycle.

Worried about the situation, she decided to film as she passed him and he was touching his exposed private parts.

The officer reported it to police the next day, identified him as Beales and he was later arrested.

In a victim impact statement read at Colchester Magistrates’ Court the officer said she had been shaken by what had happened and had not run the same route since the incident in June.

She said: “I did not realise how much it had impacted me until four days later

when I was walking and thought I saw somebody in the bushes.

“It made me feel scared. Two weeks later I saw somebody pushing a bicycle and panicked because I thought it was the same man.

“As I got closer I realised it wasn’t him and felt instant relief.”

Beales, of Queen Elizabeth Way, Colchester, initially admitted exposure but disputed some of the prosecution’s claims.

However, he later accepted everything they had alleged was true.

In an interview with the Probation Service, he said he was “pleased to be caught” as he realised he had a problem and wanted help to deal with it.

Katie Armstrong-Mason, mitigating, said a community order would help the 45-year-old overcome his issues and improve his social skills.

She said: “If he gets dealt with in the community he will get the support he needs.

“He is very embarrassed about what happened and very regretful.

“He has never been before the court.

“He suffers from anxiety and depression and is very withdrawn.”

Magistrates decided to hand him an 18 month community order with 40 rehabilitation days and 200 hours of unpaid work.

He must pay £285 in court charges and is subject to notification requirements as a sex offender for three years.