A REGISTERED sex offender was back behind bars last night (Friday, August 29) for exposing himself to girls.

John Gibson was caught after an e-fit of the flasher was released by police and published in The Northern Echo.

Twice within the space of three days, the 39-year-old rode up to girls playing outdoors and lifted the leg of his cycling shorts.

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On the second occasion, he said to two nine-year-olds: "Have you ever touched one of these before or ever played with one?"

After his arrest, Gibson said it was the closest he had ever come to committing a sexual offence with a child.

He told police in June: "Something bad could have happened . . . I'm worried that I'm returning to my old ways."

Teesside Crown Court heard that he was surprised the children were frightened as he saw himself as "a gentle figure".

Gibson - jailed three years ago for engaging in a sex act in front of a child and possessing indecent pictures - was yesterday locked up for two-and-a half years.

Judge Tony Briggs told him: "On the second occasion, there was clear potential for serious offences to be committed.

"You have a previous serious conviction for a sexual matter, and on these occasions, you were out cycling and came across - on two separate occasions - children out playing, approached them and exposed yourself."

Prosecutor Paul Newcombe told the court that the first incident happened on an early evening in Ormesby and the second was at tea-time in Coulby Newham, both Middlesbrough.

In an interview with police, Gibson said he felt safe to carry out his crimes because neither of the places were overlooked.

He admitted having an attraction to girls of that age, but it had only started after the breakdown of a relationship.

In October 2011, he was jailed for two years and nine months after police found more than 3,500 indecent images of children on his computer.

Gibson also had hundreds of pictures of illegal extreme pornography and had carried out a sex act in a car while children were nearby, said Mr Newcombe.

Garry Wood, mitigating, told the court that a probation report described Gibson as a serious risk to children, but he was keen to receive treatment.

"He was unable to complete that course during his last period of involvement with the Probation Service, but has expressed a willingness to co-operate," said Mr Wood.

"Until he completes the treatment programme, the risk he poses of causing serious harm to children will remain."

Gibson, of Lambton Road, Middlesbrough, admitted two charges of exposure and two of breaching a Sexual Offences Prevention Order - which will remain in place indefinitely.