EDDC vote to conduct independent investigation into jailed paedophile Humphreys

A quick impression of last night’s extraordinary consultative meeting.

Back in April the council voted unanimously, with one abstention, to conduct an investigation into how Humphreys continued in his council roles, with access to children, and then became an honorary Alderman after his arrest. 

The Chief Executive, Mark Williams, was asked to advise how this could be done. So it may surprise readers to know that five months later the Council met again last night to vote on whether or not to conduct an investigation.

In the interim, Mark Williams had decided to advise the council against taking any such action because, in his opinion, all that was to be known was known and such an exercise would be a waste of taxpayers money. Just how Mark Williams can make such a categorical statement hasn’t been revealed. He kept repeating the mantra that the council must be “Fact specific”.

This “foot dragging” led Cllr Jess Bailey to take the unusual step of raising a ”requisition order” to appoint, after research, a specific independent investigation organisation, Verita, to conduct one (referred to as Option A). For a requisition order to be put to the vote it has to be supported by nine councillors. 

Her move prompted Mark Williams to come up with an alternative (Option B) which would involve commissioning a legal practice to undertake the investigation. However, his first recommendation to the council was to drop the notion of conducting an investigation, but if the council rejected this advice then it should consider his Option B as an alternative to Option A.

After debate, the council voted to conduct an independent investigation by 27 votes to 9 with 5 abstensions. There were quite a few apologies.

The council then turned its attention to the two options put before it.

During this, in what seemed a surprising move to Owl, the Chief Executive started to sow confusion by spewing out other options such as conducting an external audit or even getting asking the Secretary of State to conduct a review through a process whereby the council reported itself for misconduct!

During discussion yet more options emerged such as using Ofsted, the option recently adopted by Devon County Council. 

When put to the vote Council members voted:

22 votes to choose Option A, zero votes for Option B with 18 abstentions.

So the option concocted by the Chief Executive was completely rejected. 

Owl was left with the overwhelming impression that the council has been badly let down by Mark Williams, Chief Executive.

In April he was asked to advise how an independent investigation could be conducted. This was the moment when he could have come up with the idea, that Devon County Council came up with a couple of weeks ago, of using Ofsted or indeed any of the other options he suddenly threw into the pot last night. But he didn’t, he left a void and failed to give any constructive advice other than an investigation is unnecessary and a waste of money.

We know the debate was watched by one of the victims. He very courageously gave an introductory speech as a member of the public. Special arrangements had been made so that he could do this anonymously. He spoke about how his life had been wrecked, how important it was for his rehabilitation to be heard and how an investigation would help him.

As Cllr Eleanor Rylance put it: Humphreys weaponised his role as a councillor, later an Alderman, to elevate his status in society to put him into a position of being beyond reproach. He used it to intimidate his victims.

Some councillors were close to tears whilst making their contributions during debate. But, watching the debate, the victim may have been left with the impression that a significant “establishment” barrier lurks in the background.

3 thoughts on “EDDC vote to conduct independent investigation into jailed paedophile Humphreys

  1. Interesting meeting. Not watch all of it but rather confirms suspicions. Why is CEO so anxious to avoid scrutiny and why certain members of old guard Tories still lining up with CEO? Their continued opposition raises another question that Humphries was not a lone wolf?

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    • Am I alone in thinking that the buck would usually stop, as far as the councils and police elements of this disgraceful period is concerned, with the bosses, the CEO and the Chief Constable?

      Am I also alone in having concerns about the conduct of the EDDC officer who attended the meeting to be told of Humphreys arrest, and whether he (or she) did or should have reported it to those who had a need to know – like his/her boss?

      It must have been foreseen that both officers stood/stand a chance, however large or small, of being found wanting in the way they carried out their duties. Surely neither should have had anything to do with any element of any enquiry into the matter. They should have recused themselves. Is it not unprofessional to have failed to recognise this from the start ?

      In his report, Mark Williams quotes a number of sources and it appears he suggests that they back his officer’s decision to keep the matter , Humphreys’ arrest, confidential. That is his Williams interpretation, others may differ. I see those sources as firstly making it clear that victims, past, present, and potential, must be the primary concern and steps must be taken to have them kept safe. The quoted sources then also talk of the need for confidentiality for an accused, and rightly, of the principle of innocent until proved guilty. However, they then say there will be times others should know – but on a strictly ‘need to know’ basis. I feel ill at ease with a CEO who it appears thinks it not necessary that he knows about a prolific and horrendous sex offender amongst those be has some responsibility for. I know that I would want to know if it were an employee of mine.

      While we are at it, let’s get this nonsense about the Cliff Richard case out of the way. That action was against South Yorks police giving confidential information about Richards to the BBC who then spectacularly made it public. Of course they were wrong. In the Humphreys case however there is no suggestion that the information was going in to the public realm. It was to be an exchange of confidential information between senior staff of two statutory bodies, both of whom had responsibilities in regard to the protection of vulnerable people. The case does not support the argument that the EDDC officer acted correctly in maintaining confidentiality. It was not unusual to exchange such information, it is not unusual, it happens all over the country all of the time. I would go so far as to say that without such ‘need to know’ exchanges happening daily between appropriate parties, the judicial system, a part of which I worked in and daily exchanged confidential information, would fall to pieces.

      There are many elements of this matter that remain unclear. I have many questions remaining unanswered or unclarified, in between all the gossip. If I get clarification, or answers, I hope to add them in due course. Meantime I share the concerns already expressed.

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  2. Yet again Mark Williams has shown himself to be a complete disgrace.

    The council had already definitively decided to conduct an investigation and he was instructed to report on HOW to do this and NOT repeat NOT WHETHER to do this. To reopen the question of whether to do this was not within his remit and for him to go against the council in this was was a disgrace in itself, and gave the impression that he had a personal agenda to avoid or delay such an investigation. Is this tactic evidence of a conflict of interest? Does Mark Williams have something he is trying to protect, either for himself or for his cosy relationship with the Conservative Party?

    BUT… if he had options, the time for putting them forward was in his report so that they could be put on the agenda as options for consideration. To attempt to muddy the waters and sow confusion by raising new options during the meeting and to do so verbally without providing background, detail or reasoning in a report is yet another disgrace, and once again gives the impression of having something to hide and a conflict of interest.

    As Shakespeare once kinda put it, who will rid us of this turbulent Chief Executive?

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