Sara Thornton (police officer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sara Thornton
Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner
In office
May 2019 – April 2022
Preceded byKevin Hyland
Chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council
In office
April 2015 – May 2019
Preceded bySir Hugh Orde
(as Chair of the ACPO)
Succeeded byMartin Hewitt, QPM
Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police
In office
Preceded byPeter Neyroud
Succeeded byFrancis Habgood
Personal details
Born (1962-12-27) 27 December 1962 (age 61)
Poole, Dorset, England
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Alma materDurham University
Wolfson College, Cambridge
AwardsQueen's Police Medal (2006)
Commander of the Order of the British Empire (2011)
Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (2019)

Dame Sara Joanne Thornton, DBE, QPM (born 27 December 1962) was the UK's Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner from May 2019 until April 2022.[1] She was appointed[2] by the Home Secretary at the time, Sajid Javid, in succession to Kevin Hyland who left the post in May 2018.[3]

She is a retired British police officer who was the first Chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) and the former Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police[4][5] and Vice-President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). She was the second consecutive head of the Thames Valley Police to move onto leadership of a national policing body; at Thames Valley she replaced former Chief Constable Peter Neyroud who, in January 2007, moved to the role of Chief executive of the National Policing Improvement Agency. As of 2022, she is Professor of Practice in modern slavery policy at the University of Nottingham's Rights Lab.[6][7]

Early life and education[edit]

Thornton was born on 27 December 1962 in Poole, Dorset.[8] She attended the University of Durham and gained a BA in philosophy and politics. Thornton also has a Diploma in Applied Criminology from the Cambridge Institute of Criminology.[8]

Police career[edit]

Thornton's policing career began with the Metropolitan Police in 1986. For the next 14 years she alternated between operational postings in West London and strategic roles within New Scotland Yard. She joined Thames Valley Police as the Assistant Chief Constable for Specialist Operations in November 2000 and was appointed Deputy Chief Constable in August 2003, where her responsibilities included performance and developing the strategic direction for the Force. She played a pivotal role in implementing Neighbourhood Policing across the Thames Valley.[citation needed]

In 2007, Thornton became Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police.

On 1 December 2014, it was announced that Thornton would leave Thames Valley Police to become the Chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council, (NPCC) effectively taking over from Sir Hugh Orde.[9] The NPCC replaced the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in April 2015. Thornton also took over from Sir Hugh Orde as Patron of the Police Roll of Honour Trust.[10]

In 2015, the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board published a critical serious case review report into child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire, following the jailing in 2013 of seven men for abusing six girls in Oxford between 2004 and 2012. In response to the report, Thornton repeated an apology to victims and their families saying "We are ashamed of the shortcomings identified in this report and we are determined to do all we can to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again."[11]

In March 2019, following a spate of knife murders involving young people around the UK,[12] Thornton called for the situation to be treated as a national emergency.[13]


Thornton holds the judgment that the police force is under-resourced and fears dealing with terrorism is taking resources away from general policing. Thornton wrote, "Every time there's a terror attack, we mobilise specialist officers and staff to respond, but the majority of the officers and staff responding come from mainstream policing. This puts extra strain on an already-stretched service." Thornton maintains police officer numbers are at 1985 levels with crime figures up 10% in the year to 2017 and maintains this leads to further pressure.[14] Thornton also said, "In response to this significant threat, the government is increasing the money it spends on terrorism from £11.7bn to £15.1bn but only about £700m per annum is spent on policing. And the allocation of this budget for policing is set to be cut by 7.2% in the next three years. When the volume and nature of a threat is growing alarmingly, that is a real concern."[15] She has also expressed the view that the law against race discrimination in hiring practices should be revoked thus making it legal for institutions to exercise positive race discrimination when hiring, with a view to increasing the percentage of BAME police officers in England and Wales. She stated that “[race discrimination] is unlawful at the moment. If you want to do something to give a shock to the system and say we can’t wait to 2052, I think we need to do something different."[16]

Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner[edit]

Thornton was appointed the UK's Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner in February 2019[2] and took up the role on 1 May 2019.[1] Part 4 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 created the role of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The Commissioner has a UK-wide remit to encourage good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of modern slavery offences and the identification of victims.

In March 2020, Thornton said that the local authorities and not Home Office should make decisions on child trafficking cases. The commissioner argued that councils are in much better position and can easily provide child support.[17]


Ribbon Description Notes
Order of the British Empire (DBE)
Queen's Police Medal (QPM)
  • June 2006
Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal
  • 2002
  • UK Version of this Medal
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
  • 2012
  • UK Version of this Medal
Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

In June 2006 she was awarded the Queen's Police Medal (QPM).[18] She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to the police[19][20] and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to policing.[21]

In February 2013 she was assessed as the 18th most powerful woman in Britain by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[22]


  1. ^ a b "The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner". Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b "New Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner announced". GOV.UK. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  3. ^ "Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner: letter of resignation". GOV.UK. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  4. ^ "Sara Thornton appointed top cop". Newbury Today. 28 February 2007. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011.
  5. ^ "Force spending £1m on interpreters". The Guardian. 20 September 2007.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Dame Sara Thornton appointed as Professor of Practice at the University of Nottingham". Retrieved 5 December 2022.
  7. ^ "Home Office accused of deliberately leaving anti-slavery post unfilled". the Guardian. 29 August 2022. Retrieved 5 December 2022.
  8. ^ a b Who's Who 2009. online edition: (London: A & C Black, 2008); online ed., (Oxford: OUP, 2008). {{cite book}}: External link in |location= (help)CS1 maint: location (link)
  9. ^ "Sara Thornton to lead National Police Chiefs' Council". BBC News. 1 December 2014. Archived from the original on 26 November 2015.
  10. ^ "Trust Staff". Police Roll of Honour Trust. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015.
  11. ^ "Oxfordshire grooming victims may have totalled 373 children". BBC News. 3 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Ten charts on the rise of knife crime in England and Wales". BBC News. 4 March 2019. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  13. ^ "Police chief says rise in knife crime in England is national emergency". The Guardian. 6 March 2019. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  14. ^ "UK's terror fight 'puts unsustainable strain on police'". BBC News. 22 September 2017.
  15. ^ Dodd, Vikram (22 September 2017). "Don't cut police anti-terror budget as threat grows, warns top officer". The Guardian.
  16. ^ Dodd, Vikram (22 February 2019). "Police leader calls for laws to allow positive race discrimination". The Guardian.
  17. ^ "Anti-slavery tsar calls for councils to take on child trafficking cases". The Guardian. 2 March 2020. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  18. ^ "About us / Chief Constable's Management Team / Chief Constable Sara Thornton". Thames Valley Police. Archived from the original on 28 February 2009. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  19. ^ "No. 59647". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2010. p. 8.
  20. ^ "Thames Valley Police chief constable appointed CBE". BBC News. 31 December 2010. Retrieved 31 December 2010.
  21. ^ "No. 62666". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 June 2019. p. B8.
  22. ^ "Woman's Hour: The Power List 2013". BBC Radio 4. Archived from the original on 13 February 2013.
Police appointments
Preceded by Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police
2007 to 2015
Succeeded by
Francis Habgood
Preceded byas President of the ACPO Chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council
2015 to 2019
Succeeded by

External links[edit]