Under the headline:
Tory councillor compared to Jimmy Savile kept role for three years after child sex abuse arrest
On Wednesday, the inews.co.uk carried an investigative report uncovering evidence that:
“The council knew Humphreys was being investigated for sex offences from 2016 but did nothing to prevent him continuing with his duties, which involved him coming into contact with children”
“A senior council official knew about the police investigation into Humphreys in 2016 because Devon and Cornwall Police asked him, in a formal meeting, if Humphreys’ continuing role as a councillor would bring him into contact with children, i has learned.”
“A leaked memo from East Devon District Council (EDDC) chief executive Mark Williams, which was sent to all 60 councillors earlier this month, states: “An officer knew something dating back to 2016 but was under a duty of confidentiality.”
“A second councillor is also alleged to have told a fellow member that he knew Humphreys had a court hearing coming up but it is not clear if he knew details of the charges.”
The article describes the twists and turns in the history of the investigation dating back to 2004 and earlier. Only after a second victim came forward in 2015 was Humphreys arrested the following year (2016).
It describes how Humphreys spent decades positioning himself at the heart of a powerful network of local politicians and people of influence (see Exmouth Journal prints “No comment” photos). During the 2019 election campaign, Humphreys offered Sir Hugo’s successor, East Devon MP Simon Jupp, the use of a flat he owned in Exmouth where some of his crimes had taken place. Later that year, in December 2019, Humphreys was made an Alderman. In 2021 he was convicted and jailed for 21 years.
Devon and Cornwall Police refused to confirm or deny if it was investigating other potential crimes committed by Humphreys, or whether any further victims have come forward.
Mr Williams, EDDC CEO, and the official told of the investigation into Humphreys were approached for comment.
A spokesman for EDDC said that Mr Williams will provide “a report to cabinet at the earliest opportunity to enable it to consider commissioning an independent investigation or enquiry by an appropriate independent body”.
A spokesperson for the Conservative Group on EDDC said its councillors “will fully engage with this investigation”.
This latest exposure has prompted Tim, a regular correspondent, to offer the following comments to Owl
(Given added relevance by the current suspension of an MP, arrested following allegations of rape, from parliament).
So, David Parsley’s piece in the inews suggests that Mark Williams, CEO of EDDC, has apparently admitted to councillors that a single senior EDDC staff member knew, in 2016, that the member of his council, John Humphreys, was being investigated for paedophile crimes. The EDDC officer who gained this information apparently decided against telling others on the grounds of confidentiality!
Unfortunately the inews item is now sadly subscription only so I write largely from my memory of reading it several times.
We are not told how the unnamed officer came by the information – though the suggestion would appear to be that it was from the police. The police would, I believe, only officially pass it to one of three office holders at EDDC: the CEO; the deputy CEO; or the Monitoring Officer. Does Williams include himself when he spoke of a senior EDDC officer? I think the public are entitled to know who the officer concerned was and if it came from police sources – otherwise there are even more questions..
I would also like to know more about the ‘confidentiality’ argument that was apparently put forward for taking no action. Is someone seriously suggesting that the correct course of action, when advised that a councillor is being investigated for the most serious of sexual offences is to keep silent? That officer should have been deeply worried about Humphreys offending again and against the most vulnerable; he should have known he was a school governor (it would be on his declarations of interest) and last of all, he would have known his background when there was discussion about offering alderman status. To stay silent may not be unlawful, but to me it almost rings of aiding and abetting. Am I alone in thinking we should be deeply concerned and demand the fullest of explanations for such a decision? Was nothing learned from the Saville and Harris cases?
I am aware that all too often matters can be misreported, and lose, or gain, in transmission as well as there being another side to the story – but what we know of this demands enquiry and explanation.
I may have old fashioned values but seriously, who would place ‘confidentiality’ above the risks that a free to roam Humphreys placed everyone in? I feel deeply uneasy about any council officer, council member or employee of any grade who would be comfortable with such a decision. If it was kept to the officer receiving the information well it is very short sighted for any such person to believe they were wise enough to make such a decision entirely on their own and without seeking advice from the many external quarters available. Unwise and perhaps arrogant!
But much of this is conjecture and assumes the knowledge came to the unnamed officer in the way of proper business. We need, I think, for that to be confirmed promptly.
Some of us have long suspected that one or more officers were well aware of the investigation, and a few past and present Tory councillors too. Why has it taken so long to get this awareness by an EDDC officer even partially released? The new council and its members have been pushing for an enquiry by local Tories but it seems they are unwilling to take it on. Tory head office also has no comment I gather.
Why, on top of local efforts, has it taken a national newspaper investigative reporter to get even a basic admission out of the CEO?
I am pleased that there is a call for a full investigation as in times past one suspects a bucket of whitewash would have been ordered. But I must express concern about who might be appointed as the investigative authority. It is my firm belief, from experience, that nobody but the police can ask the appropriate questions and expect answers. ‘Private’ investigators can be readily ignored – and we already have signs that some in the local Tory party seem unwilling to cooperate – I believe the report they were asked for has never appeared.
I most firmly believe that Devon and Cornwall Police are not the force to investigate. They have already been asked about their role, yet appear to have done nothing. Their chief has made it known that he is leaving this year, and this needs resolving before he leaves. They have also been criticised by the main witness.