Breaking News: Former mayor found guilty of abusing schoolboys

A former mayor of Exmouth is facing years in jail after being found guilty of the historic sexual abuse of two schoolboys.

Ted Davenport www.devonlive.com

John Humphreys raped one of the boys after taking him into an abandoned military blockhouse on Woodbury Common 30 years ago and went on to abuse the other a decade later.

He is not only a former Mayor and long-serving Conservative councillor but also served as governor of a primary school for many years.

He is openly gay and became one of the first people in Britain to take part in a same sex wedding when he married his partner in April 2014 on the first day the new law came into effect.

He denied having any sexual contact with either boy but was found guilty of all charges by majority verdicts at the end of an eight day trial at Exeter Crown Court.

He said he was shocked and flabbergasted at the allegations and accused his first victim of being ‘wicked and vindictive’ and making up his allegations so he could claim compensation.

Humphreys ran his own gardening business in Exmouth and was considered to be a pillar of the community until the first allegations came to light in 2015.

Former Exmouth mayor John Humphreys who is accused of sexually abusing to boys in thr 1990s and 2000s

Former Exmouth mayor John Humphreys who is accused of sexually abusing to boys in the 1990s and 2000s (Image: MARTIN WHITHAM)

He was prosecuted after police unearthed records of a previous complaint from the second victim, which was not pursued when it was first made in the 2000s.

Humphreys, aged 59, of Hartley Road, Exmouth, denied but was found guilty of three counts of a serious sexual assault (buggery) and two of indecent assault on the younger boy and five counts of indecent assault against older one.

The jury were out for more than eight hours before they delivered their majority verdicts.

Judge Timothy Rose adjourned sentence to Friday to allow the victims time to update impact statements.

Miss Fiona Elder, defending, said Humphreys knows he will receive a long jail sentence.

(Image: DevonLive)

Mr Piers Norsworthy, prosecuting, said he would submit a schedule setting out the sentencing guidelines for modern offences which are the equivalent to those he was convicted of.

The first victim was aged about 13 when he was picked up by Humphreys in public toilets in Manor Gardens in Exmouth, which was a well-known gay meeting spot or cottage at the time in 1990 or 1991.

He took the boy to a friend’s flat and had sex with him before dropping him off. They met again in the same way twice and on the first occasion he took him back to his former home in Salterton Road where they had sex again.

The victim said he was taken to Woodbury Common on the third meeting where he was subjected to a brutal sexual assault he described as rape.

When police asked him why he had decided to make a complaint, he replied ‘because I’ve had 25 years of sleepless nights’.

The second victim met Humphreys when he was aged 14 or 15 in 2001 and off school.

He said he was assaulted for the first time after being taken back to his home during a lunch break and was so confused that he froze.

Humphreys later offered him holiday jobs and went on to abuse him on other occasions, telling him ‘this doesn’t mean you are gay’.

Like master, like man?

Even the Telegraph has criticised Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab as “missing in action”.  

Marina Hyde’s satirical comment in the Guardian is headed: “Can someone fill in Dominic Raab about the news? He only watches it on catchup.“ She also writes: News that Dominic Raab was spotted lounging on a beach in Crete on the day Kabul fell certainly sends a message.”

But we shouldn’t forget that one of his recent special advisors (SPADS) was none other than our own Simon Jupp. Simon was appointed a SPAD to the then “First Secretary of State” in 2019, before running for parliament. 

SPADS have also come in for much criticism (see the recent New Statesman debate). The essence of this is that they usually possess a surfeit of ambition coupled with little experience.  Many SPADS see their appointment as a stepping stone to preferment to a “safe seat”.

In the case of Simon, one has to ask what foreign policy expertise could he “bring to the table”, or was appointed because of his political “nous”? Doesn’t look as if much his wisdom rubbed off.

In turn, we might ask what did he learn at the feet of his master? – Owl 

[In 1982 Peter Carrington resigned as Secretary of State, taking full responsibility for the complacency of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in its failure to foresee the invasion of the Falkland Islands and for the misleading signals sent by the Foreign Office on British intentions for retaining control over the Falklands.]

Warning over potential roof collapses at NHS England hospitals

NHS England hospitals have sounded the alarm over materials used in roofs that reached the end of their lifespan more than a decade ago, with one hospital forced to restrict the use of some operating theatres to patients under 120kg (19st).

Rachel Hall www.theguardian.com 

Several hospitals are warning of the potential for roof collapses due to structural weaknesses in the reinforced concrete planks used in their construction between the 1960s and 1980s, which have a 30-year lifespan.

North West Anglia NHS foundation trust wrote in its annual plan that the poor condition of the main theatres in Hinchingbrooke hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, posed a significant risk to elective care.

The plan, published in June, stated: “There are a number of building-related issues, the most significant being the RAAC [reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete] panelling, which affects the loadbearing of the floor, restricting the use of some theatres to patients under 120kg.”

Since the report, more structural surveys have been undertaken and the hospital is able to use just one of its seven operating theatres for patients weighing more than 120kg. The hospital said it had received £13m this year to cover the costs of surveys and repairs.

Reports leaked by a whistleblower to the BBC showed that West Suffolk hospital, which has a similar design to Hinchingbrooke, had hired a law firm to investigate the potential for corporate manslaughter charges in the event of a fatal roof collapse, while hospital trusts in eastern England had produced an emergency plan outlining what would happen in the event of “significant hospital structural failure”.

The documents seen by the BBC included an initial risk assessment that warned of an “almost certain” plank collapse, which would have “catastrophic” consequences.

The risk level has since been downgraded to “likely” in response to West Suffolk launching a multimillion-pound safety works programme, though it is understood this will not be completed until spring 2023.

NHS England said the affected trusts were maintaining safe services and were regularly required to manage complex estates repairs, including roofing work. It added that training exercises were regularly conducted in the interests of safety and preparedness.

The problems relate to RAAC planks that were commonly used in the roofs, floors and walls of NHS buildings and schools between 1960 and 1980, that have since deteriorated or have structural weaknesses.

The BBC reported that West Suffolk hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, had 27 metal supports under the planks, while the Queen Elizabeth hospital in King’s Lynn in Norfolk had more than 200.

A spokesperson for NHS England and NHS Improvement East of England said: “Trusts in the east of England work in line with specialist industry advice and have been given more than £67m to help them manage their estates programme.

“Trusts have maintained safe services for patients, who should access hospital care as they normally would, and also introduced a number of measures including improved surveillance and use of specialist equipment to help identify and fix any issues immediately.”

Caroline Walker, the chief executive of the North West Anglia NHS trust, said: “Operations continue to take place for all our patients, and we are following expert advice to manage our estate, checking and surveying our buildings regularly and completing any maintenance as it’s needed.”

Jury consider verdicts in ex-mayor sex abuse trial

The jury have retired to consider their verdicts in the case of a former Mayor of Exmouth who is accused of the historic abuse of two schoolboys.

Ted Davenport http://www.devonlive.com 

John Humphreys is facing a total of 10 charges at Exeter Crown Court where he has denied any sexual contact with the two complainants.

The boys say he abused them when they were aged around 13 and 15 in 1990 and 2001 respectively.

Judge Timothy Rose sent the jury out in mid-morning and told them that they would have as much time as they needed to reach their verdicts.

Humphreys, aged 59, of Hartley Road, Exmouth, denies three counts of a serious sexual assault and two of indecent assault on the younger boy and five counts of indecent assault against the older one.

Humphreys is an alderman who was Mayor of Exmouth from 2010 to 2012 and a councillor for 12 years.

He told the jury last week that he had no sexual interest in boys and had never had any sort of sexual contact with either complainant.

Hundreds in uproar over major homes plan

Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling on Devon County Council not to sell-off farmland near Exeter for housing.

Paul Greaves www.devonlive.com

Markhams Farm, which lies between Ide and Alphington, has been earmarked in the Teignbridge Draft Local Plan as a huge housing plot where a total of 727 houses could be built.

The site is currently a working farm and part of the county council’s tenant farm estate.

A petition – organised by district ward councillor Alison Foden – to ‘Save Markhams Farm from being sold off and keep farming local’ has so far attracted 523 signatures.

The petition states: “At this time of emergency, we call on Devon County Council to drop the planned sell-off of our local farms for housing development, and to continue to support local farming and sustainable agriculture.

“We call on Devon County Council to keep Markhams Farm and to drop their proposed sell-off for housing development as mentioned in Teignbridge District Council’s Local Plan Review 2020 – 2040.

“We say Keep Devon County’s Farms Farming.”

Markhams Farm Exeter

Markhams Farm Exeter (Image: Teignbridge District Council)

Markhams Farm is one of more than 100 sites across Teignbridge identified as places where future housing could be provided.

A public consultation run by the district council has already ended.

The petitioners hope that by putting pressure on the county council the land will be withdrawn as a potential location for housing.

The site falls within the parish of Ide. Neighbouring Shillingford St George Parish Council says it is in ‘total opposition’ to the proposal.

The minutes from its most recent meeting state: “The site is totally rural in character and consists of high quality agricultural land which is being actively farmed.

“The proposed site being set on a hillside would be highly visible from large parts of Exeter and would further erode the unique rural setting of the city.

“The proposed site is currently high quality productive agricultural land which would be destroyed if it was to be developed for housing.

Markhams Farm overlooking Exeter

Markhams Farm overlooking Exeter

“A large part of the site is occupied by a County Farm, owned by Devon County Council and leased to a tenant farm holder.”

The parish council says the working farm is a success and building would destroy it ‘at a time when agriculture nationally and locally needs to be supported and encouraged’.

The Draft Local Plan (Part 2) sets out options for where different types of development might be located over a 20-year period.

It includes a number of controversial ‘Edge of Exeter’ proposals, including 933 houses on a large swathe of land at nearby Peamore and between 200-250 at Atwell Farm in Whitestone.

As part of the process, landowners submit their land as potential building sites. Markhams Farm has been submitted by the county council’s agents.

The 80-acre plot sits beside a traditional country lane linking Alphington and Ide and is currently little used by vehicles. It is bordered on three sides by fields and also by the A30.

In the Local Plan, Teignbridge District Council says: “The site is large enough to provide local public open spaces to support wildlife and provide landscaping, tree planting and on-site play areas.

“The site is more than 800m from an area of major open space, but is close to public footpaths and cycle paths that connect to this and other areas of local public open space.”

It acknowledges a number of ‘sensitivities’ should the proposals succeed.

“The landscape contains known archaeological sites – prehistoric or Roman settlements,” the plan says.

“Therefore a comprehensive programme of archaeological work should be undertaken to enable the significance of the heritage assets to be understood as well as the impact of any development upon any such assets.”

It also says roads and footpaths would have to be improved and a new primary school built.

The district council says about the Local Plan: “It is important to note that no decisions have been taken at this stage as to where development might take place.”

The petition will be emailed to Cllr John Hart, the Leader of Devon County Council, and a formal in-person presentation at County Hall.

A copy will also be emailed to the Planning Department at Teignbridge District Council.

DevonLive has contacted Devon County Council for comment.

Building Better – Building Beautiful

(Building the Burrington way! – Owl)

From a correspondent:

The above Winslade Manor in Clyst St Mary is a substantial mansion that has recently been very sensitively re-developed by Burrington Estates to now include Winslade Manor Restaurant and Bar, Number 6 personal training and wellness studio and office accommodation.

The architecture of this building with its architraves, pediments, balustrades, quoins, sash windows, porticos and Doric columns under a slate hipped roof continues to evoke an admiration and appreciation today in 2021, even after so many centuries have elapsed. Burrington Estates have successfully returned this Grade II* Listed Georgian Manor to its former glory, when it was built by Edward Cotsford, the High Sheriff of Devon around 1800 and this renovation deserves accolades and commendation.

210110 Presentation 08 Near neighbour presentation.pdf – OneDrive (live.com)

The above link shows Burringtons design proposals for their two new housing areas in Zone A and Zone D at Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary, which are soon to be submitted to East Devon District Council for a decision. Again the plans submitted for the Zone A housing on green fields at the entrance to Winslade Park show creative, low-density, high-quality innovative designs that many will find attractive and appealing.

However, displayed on the very final two pages of this housing design presentation link on Pages 71 and 72 (which appears as a hurriedly-prepared afterthought to achieve high-density volume home-building in a restricted brownfield car park area) are 40 four-storey apartments!

Many would consider such high-density towering structures in a rural, historic village, overlooking existing homes and sited in close proximity directly opposite the valued majestic northern façade of the historic Winslade Manor, to be completely inappropriate.

Tall four-storey block structures are more usual in urban areas (like Exeter City) to provide significant numbers of homes in a metropolis but not in a rural community that has no local housing need.

The three four-storey brick-blocked structures totalling 40 apartments are considered by many to be totally incongruous in this setting and fail to reflect distinguished, prestigious standards in architecture in the immediate setting of a valued, historic asset and they conflict with recommendations by Government to enhance our communities.

Many believe that homebuilders in the 2020s should show an ethical responsibility to improve areas and not return to the low-cost brick three-five storied apartment building styles which were developed in the Soviet Union during the 1960s and have thankfully mostly been demolished and replaced.

This is an opportunity for the creation of a truly outstanding build back better brownfield design standard that could be revered as an esteemed design guide for future admiration that will stand the test of time – but these design proposals for Zone D fail to reach that objective.

Architectural designs are creative and are, therefore, vulnerable to personal, differing opinions but surely  this historic site requires imaginative high-quality style and a venerable discernment to compliment the Georgian Manor? Many find these current Zone D proposals an overdevelopment in this rural village with the designs being too utilitarian and failing to achieve aesthetic, quality, harmonious standards. Designs must not overpower, clash and be incompatible with the historic Manor and its surroundings.

The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission advised the Government to promote and increase the use of high-quality styles and designs for new build homes and neighbourhoods to reflect what communities want by  building on the knowledge and tradition of what works for their area – but do 40 four-storey blocks of apartments opposite an historic Manor House in a rural community reach those aspirations?

In the past the advice would have been to ‘return to the drawing-board’ but in this age of digital technology, it would not seem too onerous to search for a more sympathetic computer-generated design for this valued location which surely deserves so much better?