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.