Questions have been raised about photographs that show convicted sex offender and former councillor John Humphreys around children while he was under a police investigation.
Questions but do we have satisfactory answers? – Owl.
Questions around sex offender’s access to schools
Joe Ives, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk
John Humphreys attended meetings in schools whilst under investigation
Mr Humphreys, 60, who was also mayor of Exmouth at one stage, is serving a 21-year sentence after being convicted in August last year of sexually assaulting two teenage boys between the early 1990s and early 2000s.
The photograph, taken at the selection meeting for the Conservative candidate for East Devon for the 2019 election, almost a year before Mr Humphreys first appeared in court, is on the East Devon Conservative website. The meeting was held at Exmouth Community College on a day the school was closed.
At an East Devon District Council (EDDC) cabinet meeting on Wednesday [4 May] leader Cllr Paul Arnott (Independent East Devon Alliance and Democratic Alliance Group, Coly Valley) asked the chair of the Conservative group in East Devon, Cllr Bruce De Saram (Exmouth Littleham) to explain the image.
A number of senior East Devon Conservatives are in the photograph, including police and crime commissioner Allison Hernadez, the candidates standing for selection, including the eventual winner Simon Jupp, and former councillor Mr Humphreys, who is in the audience.
Cllr De Saram said he had no comments on the matter.
Cllr Arnott said: “In essence, it looks as if for the purposes of a selection meeting a man who had been arrested at least 18 months before….was taken to an educational facility for a meeting chaired by the police and crime commissioner at which the new MP candidate was selected.”
Simon Jupp, who became MP the month after the selection meeting, and Conservative councillors in East Devon categorically deny any knowledge of Mr Humphreys’ crimes whilst he was in office or when he was subsequently given his honorary title of alderman by the council in December that year. The title was removed by the council in 2021.
Separately, in March 2019, whilst under investigation, John Humphreys was pictured with children from Littletown Academy at the opening of East Devon council’s new offices, Blackdown House.
Asked why Humphreys was allowed to attend these events at the time he being investigated on suspicion of sexually assaulting teenage boys, a spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police said: “A long and thorough police investigation resulted in John Humphreys being convicted and jailed for a total of 21 years at Exeter Crown Court in August 2021.
“The circumstances of this case and Humphreys’ offences were heard in public by the court during the trial which was widely reported at the time.
“No further suspects were identified within the police investigation.
“The conviction was only possible thanks to the tenacity, patience and strength of the victims who put their trust in our officers investigating these matters.
“In 2019, the case was progressing with the police and CPS to bring the case to court. It would not be appropriate to comment on further speculation.”
Mr Humphreys was first questioned in 2005 but police did not find sufficient evidence for a prosecution.
Following a complaint by a second victim, Cllr Humphreys was arrested in 2016 before being released whislt police continued their investigation.
At the time, neither incident was made public and Mr Humphreys continued to be a councillor until May 2019. He first appeared in court in August 2020. In the intervening period, East Devon District Council (EDDC) awarded him the honorary title of alderman, which was removed in 2021.
East Devon Conservatives have denied having any knowledge of the police investigation until it came to court.
In a statement following the cabinet meeting last week, Simon Jupp revealed that he had stayed at a property owned by John Humphreys.
Mr Jupp said: “First and foremost, my thoughts are with the victims of John Humphreys’ horrendous crimes.
“For less than two months in 2019, I lived at a flat owned by Mr Humphreys but was completely unaware of his abhorrent crimes for which he was jailed in August 2021.
“I deplore his actions. Had I known anything about his crimes, I would not have lived at the property and would have immediately reported my concerns to the police.”