Conservatives call for background checks on East Devon councillors after former member jailed for sexual offences

  Posted: 30.08.21 at 09:38 by Phil Twiss

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Conservative members of East Devon District Council have called for enhanced background checks on all councillors, after a former member was jailed for sexual assault against two young boys.

John Humphreys, 59, was jailed for 21 years this month after being found guilty of three counts of serious sexual assault and seven of indecent assault against two boys, aged 12 and 13, in the 1990s and 2000s at Exeter Crown Court.

He was a former Mayor of Exmouth and served for 12 years as a Conservative councillor on East Devon District Council before stepping down ahead of the May 2019 local elections.

He was made an Honorary Alderman in December 2019. Mr Humphreys accepted honour despite knowing that he was under investigation by the police, but he is now expected to be formerly stripped of the title at a meeting on September 7.

The Conservative group of councillors on EDDC are now calling for Disclosure and Barring (DBS) checks for all existing councillors.

The group wants every prospective candidate and all existing councillors to undergo the checks which show any criminal convictions, with the enhanced version required if an individual is expected to work with vulnerable people, including children, being demonstrated as necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They say the move would improve safety and protection whilst promoting openness and transparency but their previous called to introduce such measures "have been ignored by other groups within the council".

Cllr Colin Brown, leader of the Conservative Group, said: "We are shocked and appalled by the horrendous crimes that have come to light and our thoughts are with the victims.

"We must do everything we can to protect the public and we are calling for DBS checks to be carried out on every existing councillor and future candidates.

"I would like to see this initiative implemented as a prerequisite for standing and serving as a councillor and we plan to introduce the measure for anyone wanting to join the Conservative Group.

"We are calling on every councillor and the current leadership of the council to back our call and introduce the checks as soon as possible.

"It may not currently be a legal requirement, but it is unquestionably the right thing to do and if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”

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