Questions about access for sex offenders to school

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John Humphreys attended meetings at schools while under investigation

John Humphreys attended the meetings

Questions have been raised over photographs showing convicted sex offender and former councilor John Humphreys around children as he was under police investigation.

Mr Humphreys, 60, who was also mayor of Exmouth at one point, is serving a 21-year sentence after being convicted last August of sexually assaulting two teenagers in the early 1990s and early of the 2000s.

The photograph, taken at the East Devon Conservative candidate selection meeting for the 2019 election, almost a year before Mr Humphreys’ first court appearance, can be found on the Conservatives’ website East Devon. The meeting took place at Exmouth Community College on a day when the school was closed.

At an East Devon District Council (EDDC) cabinet meeting on Wednesday [4 May] Chief Cllr Paul Arnott (Independent East Devon Alliance and Democratic Alliance Group, Coly Valley) asked East Devon Conservative Group Chairman Cllr Bruce De Saram (Exmouth Littleham) to explain the image.

A number of senior East Devon Tories are pictured, including Police and Crime Commissioner Allison Hernadez, nominees including eventual winner Simon Jupp, and former Councilor M Humphreys, who is in the audience.

Cllr De Saram said he had no comment on the matter.

Cllr Arnott said: ‘In essence, it appears that for the purposes of a selection meeting, a man who had been arrested at least 18 months previously… was taken to an educational establishment for a meeting chaired by the police and the Crime Commissioner during which the new MP candidate was selected.

Simon Jupp, who became an MP the month after the selection meeting, and Conservative East Devon councilors adamantly deny any knowledge of Mr Humphreys’ crimes while in office or when he subsequently received his honorary title of alderman by the council in December that year. The title was phased out by the board in 2021.

Separately, in March 2019, while under investigation, John Humphreys was pictured with children from Littletown Academy at the opening of East Devon council’s new offices, Blackdown House.

When asked why Humphreys was allowed to attend these events at a time when he was being investigated on suspicion of sexual assault on teenagers, a spokesperson for Devon Police and Cornwall said: ‘A long and thorough police investigation resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of John Humphreys for full term. 21 at Exeter Crown Court in August 2021.

“The circumstances of this case and the torts of Humphreys were heard in public by the court during the trial which was widely reported at the time.

“No other suspects have been identified as part of the police investigation.

“The conviction was only possible because of the tenacity, patience and strength of the victims who trusted our officers investigating these cases.

“In 2019, the case was moving forward with the police and the CPS to take the case to court. It would not be appropriate to comment on new speculation.

Mr Humphreys was first questioned in 2005 but police found insufficient evidence to press charges.

Following a complaint from a second victim, Cllr Humphreys was arrested in 2016 before being released while police continue their investigation.

At the time, no incident was made public and Mr Humphreys continued to be an adviser until May 2019. He first appeared in court in August 2020. In the meantime, the adviser of the District of East Devon (EDDC) awarded him the honorary title of Alderman, which was phased out in 2021.

The East Devon Tories have denied knowledge of the police investigation until it came to court.

In a statement following the cabinet meeting last week, Simon Jupp revealed he had been staying at a property owned by John Humphreys.

Mr Jupp said: ‘First and foremost, my thoughts are with the victims of the horrific crimes of John Humphreys.

“For less than two months in 2019, I lived in an apartment owned by Mr Humphreys but was completely unaware of his heinous crimes for which he was imprisoned in August 2021.

“I deplore his actions. If I had known anything about his crimes, I would not have lived on the property and would have immediately reported my concerns to the police.

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