A convicted rapist from Brighton has been jailed for three sex offences committed in the weeks after he was released from prison.
Michael Phillips, 35, was sentenced to 17 years in prison and told that he would have to serve at least seven years before he could apply for parole.
He was jailed at Lewes Crown Court for 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, Kemp Town, on Tuesday 9 August.
And he flashed at another woman, a 23-year-old, at Duke’s Mound, also in Kemp Town, on Thursday 11 August.
Detective Chief Inspector Jez Graves said: “We are glad that Phillips has received a substantial custodial sentence which will ensure he is not able to prey upon women for the foreseeable future.”
Phillips was released from prison on Friday 15 July last year after serving a ten-year sentence for the rape and indecent assault of an 18-year old woman in Bevendean in 2001.
He had been released on licence in 2008 but was recalled to prison after being convicted of exposing himself in Hove.
Last summer his sentences expired and he was released.
Sussex Police said that legal constraints 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.
Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett 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 took the view that there was insufficient evidence to justify asking the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to authorise 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.
“Officers had to decide whether to arrest him and then formally seek CPS authority to charge him.
“The CPS were consulted and it was decided that the surveillance operation should continue at that stage.”
The covert police operation involved as many as 25 officers on some days and continued every day for six weeks.
This period included the riots in London in August when Sussex Police were required to send officers to the capital to help the Metropolitan Police while also maximising their 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 but was severely shocked.
Chief Superintendent Bartlett said: “As we have previously explained, 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.
“The surveillance on 1 September was particularly difficult. The area in which the assault took place was open and deserted, making it very hard for the officers to have Phillips in view all the time.
“There are no plans for a formal inquiry into the circumstances of the surveillance but as always after major operations like this there will be a full debrief to see what can be learnt for any future such operations.
“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 we are very saddened about that.
“Thankfully, offenders like Phillips are very rare and our streets remain very safe places.”