Exmouth: Man tells jury ‘I just froze’, accusing former mayor John Humphreys of sex abuse

A man accusing former Exmouth mayor John Humphreys of sexually assaulting him as a teenager while he was on school work experience told a jury he ‘just froze’ when abused.

Becca Gliddon eastdevonnews.co.uk 

Humphreys, aged 59, of Hartley Road, Exmouth, is on trial at Exeter Crown Court accused of historic sex offences against two underage boys.

He denies ten charges against him, alleged to have taken place between 1990 and 2002.

The court heard Humphreys denied ever having any sexual activity with either of the boys.

The male – now an adult – in court on Thursday, August 11, said he ‘froze’ when as a teenage boy Humphreys allegedly took him to his flat during his work experience lunch break, put porn on the television, and touched him sexually.

He told the court ‘some months later’ he had oral sex with Humphreys while working for him full-time, and described another instance of sexual touching and masturbation.

He said the sexual abuse only stopped when they were ‘disturbed’ by other workmen at Humphreys’ gardening firm returning to the property to collect tools.

The male told police: “He put the telly on and there was porn on the telly. He unzipped my trousers and started touching me and making comments. I just froze.”

He added: “Most of the time it would be disturbed by the other guys coming back to get tools. Other times it seemed to last for hours.”

He told police he felt like Humphreys was in control of the situation, leaving him feeling ‘trapped’.

The male said: “There was no escape really. I couldn’t tell anyone or do anything about it. I had to keep going back [to work].”

The court heard he ‘felt sick’ and ‘just wanted to leave’.

“It was control, mental control,” he said. “Because you are a child you look up to adults. I was taught to respect adults, no matter what.”

He added: “I felt pressured to go back. I felt if I told anyone, people wouldn’t believe me anyway.”

The male, who said he was not attracted to men, said: “I didn’t know whether it was right or wrong, the things that had been done to me, I didn’t know if it changed me as a person.”

The court heard the male’s mother ‘dragged’ him to a police station in 2003, to report Humphreys for allegedly touching him sexually during his work experience fortnight, and again over the summer holidays while he continued working for the defendant.

The male gave police a written statement in 2004, but Humphreys was not charged.

In 2015 the male was approached by police to give a video statement, which he made in 2016.

That time he added fresh information, alleging Humphreys also engaged him in oral sex.

Under cross-examination, the male said he failed to tell police earlier about the oral sex allegation because his mum was in the interview room.

But his mother told the court she had waited outside the interview room when her son first spoke to police.

The male told the jury: “I was embarrassed about what people would think of me, being a straight person. It’s confusing.”

Defence barrister Fiona Elder told the jury the male continued to opt to work for Humphreys after his work experience placement ended, returning to take a summer job, and then onto additional employment with the landscape gardening firm when the school term restarted.

He accepted Humphreys’ help and money to enroll him at an agricultural college to gain a professional qualification, the jury heard.

And the male went back to work for Humphreys again in the summer of 2002, after dropping out of agricultural college, the court was told.

Ms Elder said: “When he [Humphreys] was involved in your life he was kind to you, encouraged you and gave you opportunity with your work.”

The male said: “I felt controlled and like I had to go back. I think I was a bit scared of him.”

The male told the court he had ‘no reason to lie’.

The man’s mother told the court she took her son to the police because he confided he had been abused when she found him ‘paralytic’ drunk after smashing up his flat in 2003.

She told the jury: “He was absolutely paralytic. I was very concerned. I got him into the car to try and find out what had gone wrong and why he had done what he had done.

“He broke down in tears. I was at the end of my tether with him. He walked around like he was under a cloud all the time. That wasn’t the person we knew. He was going off the rails and was drinking quite heavily.

“He said ‘you won’t believe me’.

“He said ‘I have been abused’. He sat on the car seat and was in a ball, just absolutely sobbing.

“I hugged him and held him close. I asked him who did this and he told me it was John Humphreys, of which I replied ‘we are going to the police’.”

Humphreys has denied two charges of indecent assault and three counts of a sex assault on a boy aged 12 to 13, between 1990 and 1991.

He has also pleaded not guilty to five further counts of indecent assault of a second boy aged 14 to 15 between 1999 and 2002.

The trial continues.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest insights – Office for National Statistics

Owl’s selection of interesting insights. Especially the finding that Infections are higher than in the corresponding week of the second wave, but, mercifully, hospital admissions and deaths remain lower. Registered deaths in the South West are comparatively low but are increasing.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continued to be high in England and Northern Ireland in the latest week, while the trend is uncertain in Wales. Infections have decreased in Scotland.

The estimated percentage of the community population (those not in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings) that had COVID-19 in the latest week was:

  • 1.33% (1 in 75 people) in England in the week ending 6 August 2021
  • 0.46% (1 in 220 people) in Wales in the week ending 7 August 2021
  • 1.88% (1 in 55 people) in Northern Ireland in the week ending 7 August 2021
  • 0.53% (1 in 190 people) in Scotland in the week ending 7 August 2021

Across England, infections increased for those between school Year 12 and those aged 24 years, while the trend is uncertain for all other age groups.

Infections have also decreased in the North East, North West, West Midlands and London. In other regions, the trend is uncertain in the latest week.

Although the percentage of people in England testing positive for coronavirus continued to be high in the latest week, our modelled estimates suggest an overall decrease in people testing positive over the past two weeks.

Hospitalisations and deaths are below second wave levels

Infections are higher than in the corresponding week of the second wave, but hospital admissions and deaths remain lower

Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19, number of hospital admissions per 100,000 people, and number of deaths involving COVID-19, England

Infection levels in the week ending 6 August 2021 were higher than in the corresponding week of the second wave (week ending 21 November 2020). Despite higher infection levels, hospital admission rates and number of deaths involving COVID-19 are lower in the third wave. There were 6.63 hospital admissions of COVID-19 confirmed patients per 100,000 people in the week ending 8 August 2021, compared with 15.60 in the corresponding week of the second wave (week ending 22 November 2020). There were 389 deaths involving COVID-19 registered in England in the week ending 30 July, compared with 2,274 in the corresponding week of the second wave (week ending 13 November 2020).

The rise of COVID-19 infections was slower in the first few weeks of the third wave in comparison with the second wave. There is a period of time (lag) between a person becoming infected with COVID-19 and being admitted to hospital or dying because of it. Therefore, we might still see a change in hospital admissions and deaths corresponding to the recent changes in the infection levels.

The second wave of COVID-19 infections is estimated to have started in the week beginning 4 September 2020, and the third in the week beginning 23 May 2021. However, these are not exact dates and should be treated with caution.

You can read more about our definitions of waves and lags of COVID-19 in England in our technical article.

Last updated: 13/08/2021

Hospitalisations and deaths were highest in oldest age groups

In older age groups, recent COVID-19 positivity rates were lowest, but hospital admission rates and deaths were highest

Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 in the week ending 6 August 2021, hospital admission rates in the week ending 8 August, and deaths registered in the week ending 30 July, by age, England

Positivity rates were highest among secondary school age children (school Years 7 to 11) and young adults (school Year 12 to age 24 years) and lowest in adults aged 70 years and over in the latest week (week ending 6 August 2021). Hospital admission rates remained highest in those aged 75 years and over (week ending 8 August). The number of deaths involving COVID-19 increased in all age groups aged 45 years and over (week ending 30 July, England). The number of deaths involving COVID-19 was highest in those aged 85 years and over and lowest in children aged 14 years and under.

Last updated: 13/08/2021

Hospitalisations decreased in most English regions while deaths increased

In most English regions, hospital admissions decreased but deaths increased

Change in hospital admission rates and numbers of deaths involving COVID-19 from previous week, England, weeks ending 8 August and 30 July 2021

Hospital admission rates of COVID-19 confirmed patients decreased or remained similar in all English regions except East Midlands in the week ending 8 August 2021. The largest decrease was seen in the North East.

The number of registered deaths involving COVID-19 increased in seven of the nine English regions in the week ending 30 July. The largest increase was recorded in Yorkshire and The Humber (30 more deaths).

Last updated: 13/08/2021

Failure to adequately fund the NHS is an electoral disaster waiting to happen

What’s the biggest threat to Boris Johnson this autumn? Another wave of coronavirus and another lockdown? Failure at the Cop26 climate summit? A row with Rishi Sunak over the level of public spending (or perhaps about which of their pets is Downing Street’s top dog)?


No. The issue that spooks many ministers is NHS waiting lists. The number of people waiting for treatment has risen to 5.45 million in England, the highest since records began in 2007. The record will continue to be broken every month. Officials believe about 7 million more people did not come forward for treatment during the pandemic even though they might have needed it.

When Sajid Javid, the health secretary, warned that the lists could increase to 13 million, he wasn’t painting it black to strengthen his hand in budget negotiations with the Treasury. The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts the number could be 14 million by the end of next year. The backlog could take three years to clear; ministers worry that it won’t happen by the next general election, due in 2024 but likely in 2023.

The NHS is accustomed to winter crises but this year has a summer one, as my colleague Shaun Lintern has chronicled. Even though admissions in the current Covid wave are lower than expected, NHS bosses report that hospitals are busier than they have ever been, saying that exhausted staff cannot keep working at their current pace forever.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, says every part of the service is under pressure. He lists six reasons: tackling care backlogs; the loss of up to 10,000 hospital beds due to infection control measures; the number of NHS staff self-isolating; the peak annual leave season; urgent and emergency care exceeding pre-pandemic levels and 5,000 beds still being occupied by Covid patients.

Ministers, who frequently grumble that NHS chiefs cry wolf, know they are not exaggerating this time. But the government is adding to their burdens. Although the NHS is already working out how to switch to a more preventative system next April to reduce hospital admissions, Johnson overruled Javid to press ahead with yet another shake-up.

The Health and Care Bill going through parliament will hand ministers more power to direct NHS England, diverting the service’s attention from the main public and political priority of the backlog. NHS managers fear ministers will use their new powers to block proposed closures in alliance with local Tories, disrupting sensible rationalisation plans.

Labour, which cut waiting times between 2004-10 through an 18-week target from GP referral to hospital operation, notes the irony of a Tory administration taking more nationalising, micro-managing measures when devolving power would give frontline staff more flexibility to tackle the backlog.

Although spare capacity in the private sector is rightly being used to reduce waiting lists, Labour is gearing up to accuse the Tories of ushering in a two-tier health service as more people without private health insurance opt for “pay as you go” private treatment. Not a good look to the Tories’ new working-class voters who can’t afford that luxury.

Voters instinctively trust Labour on the NHS, a recognition the party was its midwife in 1948. In recent years, the Tories have had some success in neutralising the issue. After David Cameron slept on hospital floors while NHS staff cared for his late son Ivan, the public trusted him when he promised: “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS.”

At the start of the pandemic, the Tories benefited from a “rally round the flag” effect and moved ahead of Labour when people were asked which was the best party at handling the NHS. Despite the successful vaccine rollout, the Tories now trail by 11 points.

The sheer number of people on waiting lists will make it very hard to turn that round. If we don’t already, we’ll soon all know someone on the list. “You can’t trust the Tories with the NHS” is a dangerous Labour attack line when the NHS is in trouble. At the next election, Labour will pledge to clear the remaining backlog. So the Tories have every incentive to do it by then.

However, that would require a massive investment – a top-up in the second half of this financial year to extend a successful scheme helping hospital patients to be discharged more quickly, and a big boost in three-year spending review this autumn. Initial revenue from a proposed one percentage point rise in national insurance will help to clear the backlog, but the money can’t be spent twice and will be needed to make long overdue social care reforms work.

With Sunak facing so many rival spending demands – such as other Covid catch-up priorities, notably schools; the cost of net zero and levelling up – the fear inside the NHS is that it will not get enough. That would be a real threat to the Tories’ electoral prospects.