A council leader has provoked fury after coming out in support of a convicted paedophile – and hailing him as a ”pillar of society”.
Councillor Jim Grimble, 61, (left) praised James Whittaker (right) – a monster who sexually abused four children over a 38 year period – for his ”considerable contribution to village life”.
Whittaker, 71, was jailed for eight years earlier this month after he posed as a respectable member of the community and carried out the vile offences.
He was a rotarian and scout leader and was heavily involved in local events in the leafy village of Bishopsteignton, Devon.
Whittaker’s status as a ”pillar of society” meant he was able to befriend parents in the local area, who he then subjected to a catalogue of systematic abuse.
But Cllr Grimble – vice chair of Bishopsteignton Parish Council – caused outrage when he came out in SUPPORT of Whittaker, claiming ”nobody had a bad word against him”.
He paid tribute to the ”respected” paedophile and called for residents to remember his good work in the community ”alongside the bad”.
Cllr Grimble said: ”I know what he did was wrong, but this case has taken the community by surprise.
”He helped the village any way he could, and even gave up a piece of land for a footpath along the main road. I have yet to hear anybody say a bad word against him.
”It seems completely out of character. He was also involved with scouting, and as far as we know nothing untoward happened, and many of the scouts who are now grown up are grateful to his help and advice over the years.”
Residents reacted furiously to Grimble’s comments, branding him ”despicable” and demanding he stand down as vice-chairman of the parish council.
Local resident Victor Simmons said: ”I am sickened by what Whittaker has done, and very unhappy with the comments of councillor Grimble.
”Whittaker was a paedophile, and for councillor Grimble to defend him in any way is despicable.
”He should consider his position because he is obviously so far out of touch with the views of the majority of us.”
Garage owner Graham Nicholson added: ”Whittaker is an evil man and who ingratiated himself into the community.
”He even groomed adults into trusting him and no sentence can ever be long enough for what he did to those children.”
In a bid to defend himself from the a backlash, Cllr Grimble issued a statement to clarify his comments – yet continued to praise Whittaker’s contribution to the village.
He said: ”It should be borne in mind that Jim Whittaker had been resident for some 30 years and, throughout, actively involved with community life.
”He was known and accepted for the considerable voluntary contribution he made to village life, be it through the Scouting movement or by donating land to provide a safe footpath.
”In this context he was well liked and respected. Nothing untoward was apparent until just before Christmas when the first media reports were made concerning criminal offences.
”As details began to emerge, it was a great shock to those who knew him and difficult to comprehend in the context of his historic involvement with the village, where nobody had a bad word to say about him.
”Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If only we knew then what we know now. These activities cannot be condoned, nor would anybody try to defend them. Even so, the good will still be remembered alongside the bad.”
Married Whittaker pleaded guilty at Exeter Crown Court to 13 serious sexual offences against four children.
Whittaker told police he knew his crimes, which took place between the 1970s and 2008, were wrong and were carried out for sexual gratification.
He admitted six counts of indecently assaulting children; three of gross indecency; two of sexual activity with a child; one of inciting a child in sexual activity and one count of attempting to rape a child under 16.
Judge Paul Darlow told him: ”The 13 counts on the indictment represent the systematic abuse of children over a period of 32 years.”
The former river pilot, who had worked as a navigational officer in the international shipping world, was jailed for eight years by Judge Paul Darlow on January 17.
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