'Child abuse cases happen locally, not just nationally...'

Former mayor of Exmouth John Humphreys

Former mayor of Exmouth John Humphreys - Credit: DC Police

Harrowing details have been given in recent court trials involving torture, neglect and murder of young children, their unimaginable suffering at the hands of those who should have protected and cared for them.

The actions of the perpetrators are beyond the comprehension of most of us, unspeakably wicked and evil. The long sentences dealt out are small recompense to the relatives and neighbours, some of whom tried to alert the authorities to their concerns for the welfare of the children. 

One child was not listened to when he tried to express his anguish, and he died after pitifully saying ‘Nobody loves me’. Another wouldn’t have had the language to explain what was happening to her at the age of sixteen months. 

Many questions need to be asked, and answers found, to ensure that such horrors can be prevented for the future. So great is the outrage and distress over one of the appalling crimes, the Prime Minister has ordered an Inquiry.

These are not just national cases, they happen locally too. 

We heard in August this year of the vile sexual assaults committed against two young boys by a former Councillor and Mayor of Exmouth, John Humphreys. 

The boys complained to the police, separately, in 2005, when the police dropped their investigations, only to reopen them in 2016 when another victim came forward, yet it still took five years to bring Humphreys to justice, when he was sentenced to 21 years in prison. 

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His victims are serving a much longer sentence due to the devastating impacts of what was done to them. They believed that because of his ‘standing’ in the community, their voices would be silenced. 

I met with one of them recently,  and he was frail and unable to work, a thoroughly decent young man, who asked me to read a statement to Full Council at EDDC, which I did. 

He said: "I just want to be heard", to help him in his recovery after years of silence. These young men are to be praised for their courage in coming forward.

However, there are serious questions which need to be asked and honestly answered. Such as, why were young boys sent to their would-be assailant for work experience? Why was he allowed access to the colleges? Why did the investigation take five years? Who at EDDC in the Conservative party know that he had been arrested and was under investigation? (I was told in 2017, and I am not a Conservative). Why was he nominated to the position of Honorary Alderman? Why was there minuscule media coverage of the trial? Was his membership of respectable organisations a contributory factor?

The Leader of EDDC, Cllr Paul Arnott, has written to the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police asking for an investigation by the Independent Office of Police Conduct. 

He has also said of the victim whose statement was read at council: "He is the bravest man who has lived in East Devon. I support his actions and comments. Humphreys stood against me twice for the County Council, and the first time I was elected with just 10 votes more than him. Had he been successful, he would have had access to children, schools and vulnerable people. I very much hope that this column will help others to also act when they are concerned for the welfare of others, particularly vulnerable people, also for sufferers to speak out and not remain silent."