County council admits failing to act on warning about sex abuser John Humphreys

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Convicted sex offender and ex councillor John Humphreys - Credit: LDRS

Devon County Council has admitted that errors were made in its response to a warning about the former district councillor John Humphreys, seven years before he was jailed for sexually abusing two underage boys. 

It has emerged that the NSPCC raised concerns about the Conservative town and district councillor for Exmouth in 2014, when allegations about him had already been made to the police. 

The county council’s Cabinet member for Children’s Services and Schools, Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, has now admitted that the decision to take no action was wrong. 

It follows a formal question submitted by Cllr Jess Bailey, who asked him when concerns were first raised with Devon County Council about John Humphreys and what action had been taken to keep children safe. 

In his written response, received on Thursday, June 16, Cllr Leadbetter said: “I can confirm that the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) received a referral via the NSPCC in 2014. As part of the LADO process, our officers discussed the case with the police. The police were already aware of the individual and the allegations that had been made, and advised us that there was not enough evidence to investigate further, and it was agreed that no further action would be taken. 

“We have evaluated the response that was made in 2014 and concluded that we should have held a multi-agency meeting to share information and consider what, if any, next steps could be taken.” 

He said the council will be reviewing its decision-making process and acting on the recommendations arising from the review. 

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Cllr Bailey said she is ‘utterly horrified’ at the county council’s lack of action at the time of the warning, and ‘deeply concerned’ that the council did not review that decision after Humphreys’ conviction, despite the many ‘red flags’ that have come to light since. 

She added that the failure to hold the multi-agency meeting is ‘extremely concerning because it raises questions about the risks that children may have been subjected to as a result of Devon County Council’s decision not to hold that multi-agency meeting. It also raises the issue of whether there have been similar failings in other cases’.