Yapton councillor quits after sex shame

editorial image
Have your say

A Yapton parish councillor dramatically resigned on Wednesday (May 25) after his sex offence shame became known.

Peter Hill Jones quit from the council just after being re-elected with 439 votes for a further four years.

He had become a member of the council’s planning committee and the panel which oversees the running of its King George V playing field.

He joined the parish council in 2003 and survived the elections in 2007 before he stood again on May 5.

But his fellow councillors were unaware he was a convicted sex offender who was found guilty of subjecting a 15-year-old girl to two indecent assaults which a judge described as terrifying.

David Tansley, the parish council’s clerk, said the council was unaware of the situation until the past week.

The council involved the police, who spoke to the complainant.

“Peter Hill Jones, who was re-elected as a parish councillor for the Yapton Village ward of Yapton Parish Council at the elections held on May 5, has since submitted his resignation as a councillor and this has been accepted,” said Mr Tansley.

Burndell Road resident Mr Hill Jones, who was re-elected as Peter Jones, told the Observer before his resignation he did not want to discuss his offences.

He said: “No comment. I have got nothing to say.”

It was on April 18, 1996, that Mr Hill Jones, then aged 45, entered a room in which the teenage girl was sleeping. He had been drinking and taking drugs.

At about 4am, she woke to find Mr Hill Jones indecently assaulting her by touching her leg in bed.

He then asked her to lift up her top. Her protests failed to stop him pulling up her bra and touching her breasts to commit one indecent assault.

Mr Hill Jones went on to touch her genitals to commit a further indecent assault.

He was sentenced at Chichester Crown Court on March 20, 1997, to three years in jail after being acquitted of a further allegation of trying to open the girl’s legs with his hand.

His sentence was reduced to two years at an Appeal Court hearing on October 17, 1997.

Mr Justice Ognall’s judgment states: “In the course of being in her company and doing what he did, he told her that if she did not stop making a noise or saying whatever she was saying, he was going to... rape her and get her pregnant.

“She must, on any common sense view, have found that an extremely distressing if not terrifying period.”

Mr Justice Ognall said Mr Hill Jones seemed to have stayed in the girl’s room for about two hours.

She believed Mr Hill Jones had been drinking. She revealed what had happened when she was going to school with a friend, also aged 15, later that morning.

“When interviewed by the police about the matter, he denied any sexual assault,” said Mr Justice Ognall.

“He professed he had no sexual feelings towards the girl.

“He told the officer that he was drunk that night, having consumed, as he said, three-quarters of a bottle of gin coupled with amphetamines.”

He failed to mention his convictions on his official papers which all councillors have to complete.

Ian Sumnall, Arun District Council’s returning officer, oversees all parish council elections in the district.

He said: “We were never made aware of any previous convictions. We have to take our statement of persons nominated forms at face value.

“If they had been challenged by a member of the public, or we had been notified, we would have investigated and taken legal advice.”

He explained the Electoral Commission rules state a person is disqualified from becoming a councillor if he was convicted less than five years before his election, or afterwards, to a prison sentence of at least three months without the option of a fine.

There is no distinction between the offences to which a conviction relates.