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Sex attacker was under surveillance

A convicted rapist sexually assaulted a woman and exposed himself to two others despite being under police surveillance, it has emerged.

Michael Phillips, 35, sexually assaulted a 28-year-old woman in Church Street, Brighton, East Sussex, on September 1 last year, almost a month after he indecently exposed himself to a 35-year-old woman in Madeira Drive, Brighton, on August 9, and another woman, aged 23, at Dukes Mound, Brighton, on August 11, a Sussex Police spokeswoman said.

A jury at Lewes Crown Court convicted Phillips of all three offences, the spokeswoman added.

Phillips was released from prison in July 2011 when his 10-year sentence expired for the rape and indecent assault of an 18-year-old woman in Brighton, Sussex Police said. He had previously been released on licence but was recalled to prison after being convicted of offences of exposure in Hove in 2008.

Police said Phillips was not the subject of an indeterminate prison sentence because his conviction pre-dated that legislation. This meant that Sussex Police was 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, the spokeswoman said.

Detective Superintendent Nev Kemp, who led the surveillance operation called Sherbrooke, said this meant that police had to wait for Phillips to commit or attempt to commit an offence, making sure officers were in a position to intervene so that he could be arrested and the public could be protected.

Mr Kemp 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.

"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, whilst 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."

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