I’d like to begin this article with a declaration of my fondness for Exmouth. The reason why may become clear in a few paragraphs time.

I first came as a small boy on holiday in the late 60s. When I was a student in Exeter in the early ‘80s I’d jump on the train at St James’ Station just behind the football ground and head for the sands. I used to love running along the beach in those long-lost days when I was a competitive sprinter. It was bliss.

Cut forward 40 years and I find myself working with a terrific bunch of East Devon District Officers, Councillors and members of the public trying to secure a genuine vision for an improved town centre and seafront. It’s going to be hard work, but the single difference I hope I have made is to make sure that all decision-making committees are held in public, and that the District Council runs open and fair consultation events to capture the wishes of the local people.

We get a few moans, and that’s fine, but at the end of the day I can look at the work we are currently doing and say that it is open, transparent and engaging. Well-informed Exmouthians know this was not always the case.

However, like every community on Earth, Exmouth has also been afflicted by what, when I was young, we might call wickedness. Not in general of course. The community is wonderful. But in the area of child sex abuse there have been a number of cases in recent years leading to criminal convictions.

Last week the Newsquest titles reported that “a sex offender has been jailed after he joined a notorious Exmouth paedophile in a plan to abuse a 14-year-old boy.”

The report went on to say that Benjamin Holt had become embroiled with a former theatre manager Gareth Weeks. Holt attempted to set up meetings with a 14-year-old boy to have sex. Holt asked the boy to commit sexual acts on him and was in the process of setting up a meeting at which they were to have sex but the intended victim realised that he was in danger and backed out.

Police had discovered evidence of this after arresting 55-year-old Weeks in Exmouth for having sex with another 14-year-old. In 2020, Weeks was jailed for 15 years. Holt has just been jailed for 3 years.

In the earlier case, Weeks, of Bassetts Gardens, Exmouth, admitted two counts of sexual activity with a child, meeting a child following grooming, inciting a child to sexual activity, arranging or facilitating a child sex offence, breach of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, and making, taking and distributing indecent images of children.

He was jailed for 15 years and certified as a dangerous offender by Judge Timothy Rose. Notably, he had already been jailed for child sex offences in 1993 and 2012 but was still able to join an amateur theatre in Devon as a volunteer. He was still helping to organise shows until his arrest.

Sadly, Judge Timothy Rose has since passed away. I noted his name in the Weeks case from 2020 because he had also presided over the trial of Exmouth councillor, John Humphreys, on even graver charges, resulting in an historic sentence of 21 years.

At East Devon, I and a number of other councillors have laboured against much obstruction since Humphreys’ sentence in August 2021 to understand the truth about his case - who knew what and when? That work will continue until we know the full story.