Breaking News: Disgraced ex-mayor to lose special status

An extraordinary council meeting is set to be held to strip a former councillor of his Honorary Alderman title after his conviction for child sex offences.

This is a necessary but not sufficient next step.

Owl believes there now needs to be an in inquiry into a number of “eyebrow raising” questions that have emerged during the trial, not least to address the question as to why the police did not pursue their 2005 investigation.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

John Humphreys, who abused two schoolboys in the 1990s and 2000s, was jailed for 21 years last week after being found guilty at a trial at Exeter Crown Court.

He 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, and then 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, a former mayor of Exmouth, had served for 12 years as a Conservative councillor on East Devon District Council before stepping down ahead of the May 2019 local elections.

He was nominated and awarded the Honorary Alderman title by East Devon District Council in December 2019, with Humphreys accepting the honour despite knowing that he was under investigation by the police for the offences.

At the meeting, the vote was carried by a majority with only one councillor abstaining, believed to have been Cllr Paul Millar.

But now following his conviction, East Devon District Council plan on stripping the ex-councillor of his title – the first time it has ever happened in the 47 year history of the authority – as the gravity of his crimes means that he is not a fit person to hold the honour.

Cllr Ian Thomas, chair of East Devon District Council, said: “ Firstly, and most importantly, I would like to extend my sympathy and that of the council, to the two victims and their families. A large part of their lives has been dominated by unimaginable experiences as children. I hope that the conviction and sentence handed down may offer some level of closure.

“John Humphreys has been found guilty of ten charges relating to the sexual assault of two young boys between 1990 and 2001. The 21-year jail sentence and addition to the sex offenders’ list for life, reflect the gravity of his crimes.”

Cllr Thomas added: “In 2019, an Extraordinary General Meeting of East Devon District Council awarded the position of Honorary Alderman to Mr Humphreys. The position was established under the Local Government Act 1972 and is awarded in recognition of valued service to the community represented and the council.

“In view of Mr Humphreys conviction and offences, I do not believe he is a fit person to hold this honour.

“I will therefore be convening an Extraordinary General Meeting at 6pm on Tuesday, September 7, with the sole recommendation being that the honour is withdrawn forthwith.

“This will be the first time any such step will have been taken and recognises the gravity of his crimes.”

The meeting, which will be held virtually, will only provide an ‘indicative decision’, following the decision made by the council last month to change their standing orders to allow them to meet via Zoom again as a result of rising coronavirus rates in the district.

While the legislation permitting councils to meet virtually expired on May 7, and has not been renewed, the council agreed to temporarily change its constitution in order to comply with the law.

The approach means that at present, meetings are being held virtually, but only reach ‘indicative decisions’. The actual authority to actually take the decision would be delegated to the Chief Executive and/or Senior Officers who will then make a decision taking into account the views of the consultative meeting.

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.

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.”

The title of Honorary Alderman does not confer any special privileges or rights upon the appointee to speak or vote at Council meetings, beyond the rights and privileges already afforded to the public.

The only rights that are conferred to an Honorary Alderman by virtue of their appointment is to be invited to Civic functions and events by invitation of the Council. The Council will decide which Civic functions and events it is appropriate to invite Honorary Aldermen to.

Beavers to gain legal protection as native species

Until now the river Otter is the only place in England where the Government has allowed the release of “wild” beavers. In all the other 17 licensed sites, beavers are supposed to live behind fences. Welcome back to the wild – Owl

Ben Webster www.thetimes.co.uk

Beavers will return to rivers across England under government plans to be announced this week to grant licences allowing them to be released into the wild.

They will also gain legal protection as a native species in England, meaning that it will be an offence to capture, kill, disturb or injure them or damage breeding sites or resting places without a licence from Natural England.

However, if they do cause significant damage landowners may be allowed to apply for a licence to kill them as a last resort after attempts have been made to trap and relocate them or prevent their dams from flooding fields.

At present landowners can apply for a licence to keep beavers in enclosures and there are about 17 sites in England where they live behind fences.

The only place where the government has permitted wild beavers in England is on the River Otter in Devon, where a family who may have been released illegally were allowed to remain last year.

Research on the River Otter beavers found that they improved water quality, reduced flood risk downstream and benefited other wildlife such as otters and kingfishers.

But the decision to allow more to be released into the wild will dismay many anglers and farmers who argue that beaver dams prevent salmon and trout from migrating upriver to spawn and destroy riverside trees.

A public consultation due to be launched this week will set out the criteria for allowing what the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will describe as “the cautious release of more beavers into the wild”.

Ben Goldsmith, a multi-millionaire financier and non-executive board member of Defra, said that he expected many wildlife charities, water companies and other landowners to apply for licences to release wild beavers.

He said that there might be problems finding enough beavers to meet demand. Some will come from Scotland, which has about 1,000; 87 were killed there under licence in 2019.

Goldsmith said that beavers could be imported from many parts of Europe, including Bavaria, Norway and the Netherlands.

The Caen, a river in Braunton in North Devon, could be one of the first new places where beavers are released into the wild.

James Wallace, chief executive of the Beaver Trust, said that about 50 farmers in the area had said that they would “tolerate beavers on the basis they might help with the considerable flooding issues they face, having had little success with human-made engineering in the past”.

Tony Juniper, chairman of Natural England, said: “Restoring the health of England’s natural environment will in part be achieved through the recovery of animals and plants that have become very rare, or which in some cases have disappeared completely.

“The beaver is one such species, and following the successful trial introduction on the River Otter in Devon we can see the benefits these fascinating creatures can bring, including the creation of wetland habitats for other wildlife, cleaning up the quality of water and helping to smooth out flood peaks.

“The launch of Defra’s consultation marks an important moment for the future of these animals across England.”

Good news: We’re going to Court – Good Law Project

The High Court has granted permission for our legal challenge to the “Levelling Up Fund”. The huge £4.8bn fund pretends to be the centrepiece of a levelling up agenda – but we think it’s just a way to funnel money into constituencies of political benefit to the Conservative Party

goodlawproject.org 

This permission decision means the Government will have to defend itself in Court. It’s the latest in a string of permission decisions that have gone in Good Law Project’s favour. Of the 14 cases we have issued since the start of 2020, the Court has granted permission in 11 at the first time of asking. Since 2010, official statistics show that this has only happened in 17% of all judicial reviews. Good Law Project’s success rate on the other hand is a staggering 78%. Judges clearly agree that the Government is acting in ways that deserve closer scrutiny, and they see the importance of the cases we bring.

Building a judicial review that makes it to Court is no easy feat. It takes weeks, often months, of painstaking effort to identify the right legal point and gather evidence and witness statements to build a powerful case. We can only do this work because of monthly donations from people like you. Your contributions help to pay for the salaries of our small team of in-house lawyers and paralegals, our computers, and our office space. They help to keep Good Law Project going.

We want to keep taking on impactful cases and we want to keep making it all the way to Court. With your help, we can. If you’re in a position to set up a regular donation, you can do so by clicking here.

Urgent appeal for more care workers in Devon as current shortage ‘unsustainable’

Devon County Council and the NHS has issued 23,000 ‘thank you’s – one to every care worker working in the county council area’ – for going above and beyond to keep vulnerable people safe and well throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

But with the entire health and care system at full stretch the County Council says the situation is becoming unsustainable.

Now they are calling for over 1,000 more people to join the care workforce, and for families and communities to do all they can help ease the pressure.

“We all know that the whole health and care system is under tremendous pressure right now and it’s clear that we are all experiencing this together,” said Cllr James McInnes, Devon County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for adult health and social care.

“Everyone – care and support workers, doctors, nurses, our hospitals and voluntary and community groups – have all done a fabulous job to keep us safe and well throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

“Devon has an army of unsung and often forgotten care workers in care homes, the homes of vulnerable people, and other settings up and down the county every day, helping and supporting those that cannot look after themselves.

“I want to thank every one of the 23,000 care workers in the county, working all hours and putting their own safety second to the needs of the people they support, keeping our most vulnerable residents safe, well and cared for. And I want to thank the thousands of unpaid carers who are providing huge amounts of support to their families and friends.

“These caring care roles are essential, and working alongside community health staff, they are vital in helping keep people out of hospital.

“But the sustained pressure on them, and all staff in the health and care system, is beginning to tell, and they are also now struggling to cope.

“Care providers can only provide care to vulnerable people if the workforce is there, and with coronavirus impacting on care staff, just as it is everyone, we quite simply do not have enough care workers in Devon right now.”

Thousands of care job vacancies are being advertised in Devon today, and with care staff off work – self-isolating because of coronavirus, or because they’re otherwise unwell – care companies are struggling.

It means vulnerable people are at risk of not receiving the care they need when they need it. And that more people are finding themselves as unpaid carers, caring for loved ones and friends or neighbours, in the absence of there being enough paid care staff available.

“23,000 is a lot of care workers, but we need more,” Cllr McInnes said.

“And we need them quickly. We are bringing in care workers from outside Devon, but that’s not a long-term or fair solution, given that their own communities may also be in need of care workers. The situation is becoming unsustainable.

“We are making an appeal today for people to come forward from communities across Devon.

“In Exeter we need about 300 people. In North Devon and Torridge, we need another 300 people, and another 300 needed in care roles across Teignbridge and South Hams. 150 people are needed each in East Devon and Mid Devon areas, and around 100 people are needed right now in West Devon.

“That many new recruits into social care would make a very real difference to the people who need support right now. We can help with training for those without it. We can match you up with where your skills are needed and the kind of work you want to do.

“So, we are asking, if you have worked in care before but left, can you return? Even if that is just for the next few months to help us over this period of greatest pressure.

“If you’re a personal assistant and have capacity to help, can you come forward?

“If you’ve not worked in care, but want to help, a warm welcome awaits you, regardless of age and experience. We need people who are compassionate, can communicate well and are ready to commit themselves to the rewarding range of roles on offer. If you have those skills we can train and support you and offer you the role that will suit you best.

“If you have time to spare as a volunteer, please get in touch.

“If you’re a family with elderly or vulnerable relatives, or you’re friends with someone who needs support, what can you do?

“Today is our call to action. Today is your opportunity to make somebody else’s life better.”

Contact Devon County Council now and register your interest by visiting https://devon.cc/findyourcalling leaving your name, contact details and a postcode, and the council’s recruitment team will get back to you. Or visit https://devon.cc/socialcarecareers to find the latest care job vacancies, apprenticeships and training opportunities in the care sector in Devon.

Sasha on Hugo Swire and “our beloved longtime helper, John Humphreys”

Last week former Mayor of Exmouth and District Councillor John Humphreys, who was also appointed an honorary Alderman in Dec 2019, was jailed for 21 years for a series of sexual assaults. Below we read how close he was to the Swires.

First, here is how the Judge described the assaults:

Judge Rose said the first victim had been no older than 13 years old when he was picked up by Humphreys outside toilets in St Andrew’s Road, Exmouth, and driven on three separate occasions to different locations for sex.

He said Humphreys, who had been ‘entirely responsible’ for the boy’s welfare to ensure he came to no harm, raped his victim orally and anally.

Judge Rose said Humphreys’ actions caused the male long-lasting psychological harm, lasting decades

The Judge said: “These were shocking acts of sexual violence. You targeted a particularly vulnerable victim.”

He added: “It must have been obvious to you that he was a vulnerable young boy that had a attended a location that was entirely unsuitable for him.

“You decided not to help him and ensure he came to no harm in that situation.”

The Judge said Humphreys inflicted ‘shocking acts of sexual violence’ on the same victim which culminated in raping the boy in a disused building on Woodbury Common.

Judge Rose said: “You instructed him to never talk about this and you told him that his life wouldn’t be worth living if he told.”

The court heard the second victim had been around the age of 15 and on work experience with Humphreys’s gardening firm when he was sexually assaulted multiple times by the defendant, who orchestrated time alone with the teenager.

Here is how Sasha describes the relationship between John Humphreys and the Swires

Owl has been asked (31 August) to delete the extracts from page 286 and page 445 by Susan de Soissons | Director, Author & Media Relations – Little, Brown Book Group:

“I write to remind you that permission has not been granted to extract from Diary of an MPs Wife by Sasha Swire. Please remove the extracts.  Any further uploading of extracts with be forwarded to our legal department.

Regards,

Susan de Soissons

“Mayor’s big day is a truly momentous one!” John Humphreys ties the knot with former Journal reporter 2014.

“The council chamber was packed for the ceremony, and the reception saw 110 friends and family mark the occasion at the nearby Masonic Hall.”

Owl’s followers might like to re-read this article from 2014 in the light of John Humphreys jail term of 21 years for sexual assault. They might also like to read a couple of relevant extracts from Sasha Swire’s “Secret” diaries which Owl is posting next: Sasha on Hugo Swire and “our beloved longtime helper, John Humphreys”.

Before doing so, take a moment to read how the Judge described these assaults, as reported in East Devon News:

Judge Rose said the first victim had been no older than 13 years old when he was picked up by Humphreys outside toilets in St Andrew’s Road, Exmouth, and driven on three separate occasions to different locations for sex.

He said Humphreys, who had been ‘entirely responsible’ for the boy’s welfare to ensure he came to no harm, raped his victim orally and anally.

Judge Rose said Humphreys’ actions caused the male long-lasting psychological harm, lasting decades

The Judge said: “These were shocking acts of sexual violence. You targeted a particularly vulnerable victim.”

He added: “It must have been obvious to you that he was a vulnerable young boy that had a attended a location that was entirely unsuitable for him.

“You decided not to help him and ensure he came to no harm in that situation.”

The Judge said Humphreys inflicted ‘shocking acts of sexual violence’ on the same victim which culminated in raping the boy in a disused building on Woodbury Common.

Judge Rose said: “You instructed him to never talk about this and you told him that his life wouldn’t be worth living if he told.”

The court heard the second victim had been around the age of 15 and on work experience with Humphreys’s gardening firm when he was sexually assaulted multiple times by the defendant, who orchestrated time alone with the teenager.

Mayor’s big day is a truly momentous one!

Dave Beasley www.exmouthjournal.co.uk 

History was made in Exmouth on Saturday as mayor John Humphreys and teacher David Marston said ‘I do’ on Saturday.

When Cllr Humphreys and former Journal reporter David tied the knot in front of family and friends it marked the first-ever same-sex marriage, both in Exmouth and East Devon.

They exchanged vows just 12 hours after the new marriage law came into effect; and to mark the occasion the ‘rainbow flag’ was flown aloft the town hall.

Cllr Humphreys said: “It was a wonderful day and we were delighted to be able to do something that was not only of personal importance but something we believe is of national importance in our home town.”

The council chamber was packed for the ceremony, and the reception saw 110 friends and family mark the occasion at the nearby Masonic Hall.