Sex attacker convicted of three offences in Brighton

Posted On 22 Feb 2012 at 6:12 pm

A sex offender faces another stretch in prison after being convicted of attacking a woman in Brighton and flashing at two others.

Michael Phillips, 35, was convicted at Lewes Crown Court today (Wednesday 22 February) of sexually assaulting a 28-year-old woman in Church Street, Brighton, on Thursday 1 September.

He indecently exposed himself to a 35-year-old woman in Madeira Drive, Brighton, on Tuesday 9 August and to a 23-year-old woman at Duke’s Mound, Brighton, on Thursday 11 August.

He was remanded in custody for sentencing at the same court on Thursday 22 March.

Phillips was released from prison on Friday 15 July at the expiry of a ten-year sentence for the rape and indecent assault of an 18-year-old woman in Brighton.

He had also been convicted of offences of exposure in Hove in 2008, having been released from prison on licence.

He was recalled to prison as a result.

However, in 2011, as his sentences had expired, he was released.

Sussex Police today explained the legal constraints that meant that they could keep Phillips under surveillance but had to wait until he had committed an offence before arresting him.

He had not been subject of an indeterminate prison sentence because his conviction for rape pre-dated a change in the law.

The police became the lead agency for managing him under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) as a registered sex offender. He was being managed at Level 3, which is the highest level under MAPPA.

Detective Superintendent Nev Kemp, who led the six-week police operation, said: “Professionals from our partner agencies dealing with Phillips all agreed that on release he would continue to pose a high risk of reoffending, primarily of sexually offending against women in general and there are no legal controls available to adequately allow us to manage such a broad risk and confidently prevent any such assault.

“We therefore developed detailed plans to monitor his behaviour, which included exhaustive daily surveillance over many weeks which ultimately resulted in his arrest and conviction.

“Officers observed Phillips hiding in bushes watching women and often changing his clothes in an effort to reduce the likelihood of his being identified.

“The very uncomfortable reality for us was that we had to wait for Phillips to commit or attempt to commit an offence while doing our best to ensure that if he did we were in a position to intervene to protect the public and bring him to justice.

“He was arrested on suspicion of exposure to a woman in Southover Street, Brighton, on 17 July, but police consulted the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who advised that there was insufficient evidence to justify criminal proceedings.

“The surveillance operation meant that officers were present in the area when he committed indecent exposures on 9 and 11 August.

“Although it was not possible for officers to directly witness, or thus to make an arrest for, either of those two offences, they immediately spoke to the two women and took details.

“The CPS were consulted at that time and advised that there was insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of successful prosecutions at that stage.”

The covert police operation involved as many as 25 officers on some days and continued every day for six weeks.

This included the period of the riots in August when Sussex Police were required to send officers to London to help the Metropolitan Police while also maximising visibility within Sussex.

Officers were watching Phillips in the early hours of Thursday 1 September when he spotted a young woman walking on her own into Church Street, Brighton.

He had been hiding under nearby trees and within moments he ran into the street and attacked and sexually assaulted her.

As officers moved in she screamed and he ran away, back to the nearby hostel in which he had been staying, where officers arrested him minutes later.

The woman was slightly hurt and severely shocked.

Detective Superintendent Kemp said: “This was a very difficult operation in which many officers worked very hard and under great pressure to try to protect women going about their own business in the city centre.

“Our overriding priority was the protection of the public and we are relieved that our operation meant we were able to catch and convict Phillips

“Sussex is a safer place as a result.

“The victim, a 28-year-old student, has been extremely brave and without her courage Phillips would not have been convicted.

“The assault was extremely frightening and had a profound effect on her, and I am very saddened about that.

“Thankfully, offenders like Phillips are very rare and our streets remain very safe places.

“Protecting the public is central to the role of Sussex Police and we will always look at operations like this to see how we can do better.

“What this case does show, however, is that in some cases, where an individual poses such a broad ongoing high risk, there are no restrictions available in law that allow this risk to be removed when that person is released into the community.

“This is a really difficult issue, when set against the rights of protecting law-abiding people and, in this case, women in particular.”

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