An independent probe has begun into how former Exmouth mayor John Humphreys was allowed to continue serving the community after he was arrested and investigated for historic child sex offences.
The review aims to uncover if anyone at East Devon District Council (EDDC) knew that Humphreys – who was first arrested in 2016 – remained under investigation until he resigned from his roles as district and town Councillor in 2019 and 2020 respectively – prior to him standing trial and being jailed for 21-years in 2021 for having sex with underage schoolboys.
EDDC said the investigation will look at the actions of its staff, management and Councillors who allowed Humphreys to continue in his role after his arrest, and in 2019 awarded him a ceremonial honour. The report will include if he posed any risk to children during his community work, and as a school governor.
It is expected the independent investigation team will deliver the report to EDDC in early January 2024.
An East Devon District Council spokesperson said: “This investigation has been commissioned following a decision by council on 28 September 2022 to appoint an independent body to look at this.
“The aim of the investigation is to understand the actions of staff and Councillors in the handling of matters relating to former Councillor John Humphreys, and to recommend any improvements required for the council going forward.”
The EDDC spokesperson added: “Mr Humphreys was a former mayor of Exmouth and was an East Devon District Councillor from 2007 to 2019.
“He was imprisoned for 21 years after being convicted in August 2021 of sexually assaulting two teenage boys in the early 1990s and early 2000s.
“Mr Humphreys was made an Honorary Alderman by EDDC in December 2019. The council voted to remove his honorary title following his conviction.”
EDDC said the investigation would:
- Establish what information was known by EDDC Councillors and officers. about Mr Humphreys and any investigations into the allegations against him
- Understand the EDDC decision-making processes in considering Mr Humphreys’ continued position as a Councillor after his arrest.
- Determine the extent to which the EDDC considered whether Mr Humphreys presented any safeguarding risks to children in the context of his party political and Councillor roles.
- Examine what, if any, safeguarding measures were put into place following the 2016 arrest and assess the effectiveness of their implementation and monitoring.
- Describe the process by which the EDDC bestowed the honour of Honorary Alderman on Mr Humphreys.
- Determine whether the EDDC complied with its own policies and procedures in making this decision review the decision-making processes deployed by EDDC following Mr Humphrey’s conviction to remove his honorary title and to review its actions in the handling of this matter.
- Determine whether any improvements could be made to EDCC’s safeguarding and governance arrangements in light of the findings of the investigation.
- Report on any other significant issues that arise in the course of the investigation that bear on its terms of reference.
The district council said it had appointed Verita Consulting ‘to carry out an independent investigation into the actions of the council following the allegations, criminal charges and subsequent conviction of John Humphreys’.
EDDC said: “The investigation will be conducted in private. The investigation will have no statutory or disciplinary remit.
“The approach will be focused on uncovering the facts and identifying opportunities for learning and improvement in a supportive and constructive manner.”
Former Exmouth mayor Humphreys was jailed for 21 years in August 2012 after he was found guilty of sexually abusing two underage boys in offences dating back to the 1990s.
The former local politician was jailed for a string of sex offences against two schoolboys when Humphreys was man in his 30s.
Passing sentence, Judge Timothy Rose said some of the offences would be deemed as ‘rape’ by today’s standards.
Former local Conservative party member Humphreys, a former town and district Councillor, denied ever having any sexual activity with either of the boys.
He was served consecutive sentences because his abuse of the children was ten years apart, reported by two males who did not know each other.