Former mayor jailed over schoolboy abuse

A former mayor of Exmouth who abused two schoolboys in the 1990s and 2000s has been jailed for 21 years.

Ted Davenport

John Humphreys groomed and assaulted the first victim when he was aged about 13 and had three sexual encounters culminating in a violent sexual attack on Woodbury Common.

He went on to abuse the second boy when he was aged about 15 and met Humphreys while doing a work experience placement from school.

Humphreys was jailed after being found guilty at a trial at Exeter Crown Court earlier this week.

He was brought to justice by a long and complicated police investigation which started when the second victim told his girlfriend and mother of the abuse in 2005, some four years after it happened.

Police took a statement but did not prosecute at the time.

In a victim impact statement, he said he had bad feeling against the police at the time and felt Humphreys ‘had been favoured because of his political connections’.

The case was reopened in 2015, when the first victim came forward, telling officers that he was making his disclosures after 25 years of psychological trauma and sleepless nights.

Judge Timothy Rose told Humphreys he had done lasting damage to the victims and said many of his assaults would now be classified as male rape.

Humphreys was Mayor of Exmouth from 2012 to 2014 and served for 12 years as a Conservative councillor on East Devon District Council.

He was also a governor of a primary school in Exmouth.

He was appointed as an alderman by East Devon District Council in 2019 and accepted the honour despite knowing that he was under investigation by the police.

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.

He has been openly gay since coming out at the age of 21 and became one of the first people in Britain to take part in a same sex wedding when he married his partner in March 2014, 12 hours after the new law came into effect.

He denied having any sexual contact with either boy and said he was shocked and flabbergasted at the allegations.

He accused the first victim of being “wicked and vindictive” and making up his allegations to claim compensation.

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.

He was jailed for 21 years by Judge Rose, who also put him on the sex offenders’ register for life.

Former mayor of Exmouth John Humphreys has been jailed for 21 years for sexually abusing two schoolboys (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)

Judge Rose told Humphreys: “Six of these offences have to be assessed against the modern guideline for rape.

“These were shocking acts of sexual violence. You targeted a particularly vulnerable victim.

“It is clear you caused severe psychological harm which has damaged and blighted the life of your victims.

“You provided positive service to the community in your political career and as Mayor of Exmouth but your pursuit of a respectable life was undertaken while the dark and awful secret of your sexual offending remained unknown.

“These sentences must be consecutive. These incidents were entirely separate and 10 years apart against two children who did not know each other.”

Miss Fiona Elder, defending, said Humphreys should be given credit for the good work he has done in the community in the past and the punishment he has already suffered from the loss of his good name and the stress of the five-year investigation.

She said the offences were all opportunistic and there was no significant planning.

During the trial, the first victim said he 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.

He said Humphreys took him to a friend’s flat after their first meeting and had sex with him.

He said they met again in the same way a second time and Humphreys 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.

He said he was wearing a school shirt and was pushed up against the wall of an abandoned military blockhouse and raped.

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

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”.

Following Humphreys’ sentencing, police have praised the two victims who came forward and gave evidence.

The officer who led the inquiry into his historic abuse of the boys 20 and 30 years ago said the verdict and sentence show that nobody is above the law.

Police Sergeant Angela Galasso said: “This has been a long and protracted investigation involving historic sexual offences that occurred more than 30 years ago during the early and late 1990s.

“The sentencing today shows that nobody is above the law, regardless of their standing in the community.

“I can only thank the complainants in this case for their tenacity, patience and the trust that they have continued to place in myself and colleagues investigating these matters.

“Both victims have voiced separately that they feared they would never be believed or that their complaints would be taken seriously.

“I sincerely hope that this guilty verdict will now provide this validation and allow them to feel that they can move on with their lives.”

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said the force takes offences such as these very seriously and encourages any victims to come forward.

Anyone who may have been affected by anything raised in this article can contact police in their local area by emailing or calling 101.

The freephone NSPCC helpline 0808 800 5000 is available for anyone to report or seek advice about non-recent abuse. Calls can be made anonymously.

3 thoughts on “Former mayor jailed over schoolboy abuse

  1. Thank goodness we have two women to thank for the investigation and reporting of these cases. Yes, a call for an enquiry into the complaints background and investigation should be lodged!


  2. Last year, there was no report in the Exmouth Journal. I wrote to the Editor, making the point that it might encourage other potential victims to come forward. It was then briefly reported online, but not in the hard copies on sale. Having been subjected to bullying by JH, my husband and I sensed that there was something nasty which would emerge eventually, but nothing as sordid as was heard in court. Who has been preventing the revelations, a male organisation or a political party?


  3. The article by Becca Gliddon on the East Devon News site is slightly better than this. Becca deserves credit for fulfilling the duty of the press to report on most days through the case, the only journalist to show interest in doing so. There has been a shocking lack of normal publicity during this investigation and case, undermining the opportunity for other potential victims to see the news and come forward, Blink and you would have missed the clips of both conviction and sentence on BBC Spotlight, neither trailed at the head of the programme, and there has I understand been nothing at all in the Western Morning News. Does this reflect known media contacts of those close to the convicted man?


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