Questions raised over police's early handling of John Humphreys case

Convicted sex offender and former East Devon councillor John Humphreys

Convicted sex offender and former East Devon councillor John Humphreys - Credit: Devon and Cornwall Police

Claims the police failed to act upon early reports of sexual assault by former Exmouth Mayor John Humphreys have been brought to the attention of the Chief Constable.

A letter from a man describing how, as a teenager, he was sexually assaulted by the former East Devon District Councillor was read out to a virtual meeting of the full council on Wednesday (December 8).

The man, from Exmouth, said he was assaulted several times between 1999 and 2001 after being sent to Cllr Humphreys’ gardening business for work experience at the age of 14.

He said he made a statement to the police in 2004 but the case was dropped the following year, and alleged when he tried to get the investigation reopened in 2012, following the revelations about Jimmy Savile’s sex crimes, he was threatened by a police officer.

The letter goes on to say that no action was taken against Cllr Humphreys until 2015, after another of his victims came forward.

Cllr Humphreys was arrested in May 2016, but it took five years for the case to come to court, during which he continued to serve as a councillor before standing down and accepting the honorary title of alderman for his services to the district.  

He was eventually jailed for 21 years for historic sex offences against two boys.

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“This leaves me wondering,” read the letter, “Who else knew and how was he allowed to carry on as usual being a councillor at Exmouth and East Devon?"

After the meeting, leader of East Devon District Council, Cllr Paul Arnott, wrote to the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, Shaun Sawyer, asking him to refer the force to the Independent Office for Police Conduct to look at how the case was handled in earlier years.

In response, the police said: “While we sincerely hoped that the guilty verdict and strong sentence would allow our victims to move on with their lives (the) statement does show that more still needs to be done.

“Therefore, officers will be reaching out to the victims in this case to offer them further support, and if requested, to assist with commencing a formal complaint into how this case was initially handled.”