A serial sex offender tried to give police surveillance officers the slip by using a series of different hats, glasses and jackets to disguise himself.
Falkirk man John Bermingham (52) had been watched by officers ever since he was cleared of attempting to abduct two little girls.
His Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) banning him from having anything other than “incidental” conversations with women, Bermingham was arrested after engaging a 59-year-old woman in a “strange” chat about a dog.
Police found him carrying three different hats, two different pairs of glasses, and a spare jacket.
Appearing at Stirling Sheriff Court today, Bermingham was said to have deliberately “gone equipped” to change his appearance.
Procurator fiscal depute Samantha Brown said on May 18 a Police Scotland team keeping tabs on Bermingham began surveillance of him at around noon.
She added: “He was seen going about his business, and it was noted he was changing his clothing in the course of the day. In particular a hat was changed for a hat of a different colour.”
At 1.30pm he approached a 59-year-old woman near the Union Canal in Falkirk where she was walking a dog.
Ms Brown said: “As soon as she turned off the canal footpath the witness saw the accused walking in the middle of the road towards her. He smiled at her and made a clicking noise to get the attention of the dog, approached her, and knelt down and starting patting the dog and asking her questions about it.
“She made various comments about the dog – that it was timid, and it was her neighbour’s dog. When she went to move on he asked her if she had her own dog. She thought that question a bit strange, and he continued to make conversation, commenting about another dog he said he had seen shortly before.”
The woman then walked away, bringing the encounter to an end.
Ms Brown said: “The police who had him under surveillance had observed him approaching the woman, and immediately made contact with her to ask her what had taken place.”
Bermingham was arrested about an hour later as he came out of a local shop.
Ms Brown said: “He was in possession of three hats and two pairs of glasses.”
Bermingham, of Falkirk, pled guilty to breaching his SOPO.
James Smith, defending, said Bermingham “did not dispute the factual position”.
He added: “Around May 10 this year he was acquitted in the High Court having spent about a year on remand and returned to the Falkirk area. RIPSA (Regulation of Investigator Power Scotland Act) authorisation to watch him was granted that same date.
“He wasn’t sure, but he suspected he was under surveillance. What is significant about the conservation with this woman was that there was no sexual content to that conversation.
“His offender management manager had told him he was allowed to walk past somebody, and if they were to say hello to him, he was to politely say hello and move on.
“What he did wrong is he stopped and engaged in conversation.
“He accepts a custodial sentence is inevitable. We can have some confidence that when he is released again, similar surveillance will be put in place.”
Sentencing Bermingham to three years in prison, Sheriff Wyllie Robertson said: “The content of the conversation itself is not of great import as far as I am concerned. What is of more concern to me is that you were clearly intent on breaching this order.
“You had changed your appearance once during the course of this surveillance, and you went equipped to facilitate further changes. You have a conviction for rape and attempted rape.
“Only a significant sentence is appropriate.”
As he was led handcuffed from the courtroom, Bermingham shouted: “I was going to the sports centre. Set up again.”
In his High Court case, Bermingham had been accused of trying to seize the little girls from Glenburn Road, Falkirk, last year by pretending to have lost his jacket and offering them cash to help him find it.
The High Court jury heard evidence from the little girls, who couldn’t identify Bermingham, and found the charges not proven.
The court had heard from Viper MacDonald (49) who claimed he saw a man with the little girls from the window of his home and rushed to stop him from getting away.
Mr MacDonald was helped by a 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named, as they restrained the man, whom he identified as Bermingham.
Police arrested Bermingham and when they took him into custody, discovered condoms, sweets and sleeping pills in his possession.