Former Exmouth mayor jailed for 21 years for historic rape of schoolboys

Former mayor of Exmouth John Humphreys

Former mayor of Exmouth John Humphreys - Credit: DC Police

A former mayor of Exmouth who abused two schoolboys in the 1990s and 2000s has been jailed for 21 years. 

John Humphreys groomed and assaulted the first victim when he was aged about 13 and had three sexual encounters culminating in a violent sexual attack on Woodbury Common. 

He went on to abuse the second boy when he was aged about 15 and met Humphreys while doing a work experience placement from school. 

Humphreys was jailed after being found guilty at a trial at Exeter Crown Court earlier this week. 

He was brought to justice by a long and complicated police investigation which started when the second victim told his girlfriend and mother of the abuse in 2005, some four years after it happened. 

Police took a statement but did not prosecute at the time. In a victim impact statement, he said he had bad feeling against the police at the time and felt Humphreys ‘had been favoured because of his political connections’. 

The case was reopened in 2015, when the first victim came forward, telling officers that he was making his disclosures after 25 years of psychological trauma and sleepless nights. 

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Judge Timothy Rose told Humphreys he had done lasting damage to the victims and said many of his assaults would now be classified as male rape. 

Humphreys was Mayor of Exmouth from 2012 to 2014 and served for 12 years as a Conservative councillor on East Devon District Council. He was also a governor of a primary school in Exmouth. 

He was appointed as an alderman by East Devon District Council in 2019 and accepted the honour despite knowing that he was under investigation by the police. 

Humphreys ran his own gardening business in Exmouth and was considered to be a pillar of the community until the first allegations came to light in 2015. 

He has been openly gay since coming out at the age of 21 and became one of the first people in Britain to take part in a same sex wedding when he married his partner in March 2014, 12 hours after the new law came into effect. 

He denied having any sexual contact with either boy and said he was shocked and flabbergasted at the allegations. He accused the first victim of being ‘wicked and vindictive’ and making up his allegations to claim compensation. 

Humphreys, aged 59, of Hartley Road, Exmouth, denied but was found guilty of three counts of a serious sexual assault (buggery) and two of indecent assault on the younger boy and five counts of indecent assault against older one. 

He was jailed for 21 years by Judge Timothy Rose, who put him on the sex offenders’ register for life. 

He told him: “Six of these offences have to be assessed against the modern guideline for rape. These were shocking acts of sexual violence. You targeted a particularly vulnerable victim. 

“It is clear you caused severe psychological harm which has damaged and blighted the life of your victims. 

“You provided positive service to the community in your political career and as Mayor of Exmouth but your pursuit of a respectable life was undertaken while the dark and awful secret of your sexual offending remained unknown. 

“These sentences must be consecutive. These incidents were entirely separate and ten years apart against two children who did not know each other.” 

Miss Fiona Elder, defending, said Humphreys should be given credit for the good work he has done in the community in the past and the punishment he has already suffered from the loss of his good name and the stress of the five-year investigation. 

She said the offences were all opportunistic and there was no significant planning. 

During the trial, the first victim said he was aged about 13 when he was picked up by Humphreys in public toilets in Manor Gardens in Exmouth, which was a well-known gay meeting spot, or cottage, at the time. 

He said Humphreys took him to a friend’s flat after their first meeting and had sex with him. He said they met again in the same way a second time and Humphreys took him back to his former home in Salterton Road where they had sex again. 

The victim said he was taken to Woodbury Common on the third meeting where he was subjected to a brutal sexual assault he described as rape. 

He said he was wearing a school shirt and was pushed up against the wall of an abandoned military blockhouse and raped. 

The second victim said he met Humphreys when he was aged 14 or 15 in 2001 and off school on work experience. 

He said he was assaulted for the first time after being taken back to his home during a lunch break and was so confused that he froze. 

Humphreys later offered him holiday jobs and went on to abuse him on other occasions, telling him ‘this doesn’t mean you are gay’.