Sara Thornton (police officer)

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Sara Thornton

Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner
Assumed office
May 2019
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 56)
Poole, Dorset, England
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Alma materDurham University
University of 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)
WebsiteOfficial website

Dame Sara Joanne Thornton, DBE, QPM (born 27 December 1962) is the current UK's Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.[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.

Early life and education[edit]

Thornton was born on 27 December 1962 in Poole, Dorset.[6] 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.[6]

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. More recently she has played a pivotal role in implementing Neighbourhood Policing across the Thames Valley.[citation needed]

In 2007, Thornton became Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police.[7]

Following an inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in 2010, Thornton accepted that the number of crimes being solved by the force had fallen too low and needed to increase from 14%, which was then the lowest in the country.[8][9]

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.[10] 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.[11]

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."[12]

In March 2019, following a spate of knife murders involving young people around the UK,[13] Thornton called for the situation to be treated as a national emergency.[14]


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.[15] 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." [16] 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 racially discriminate when hiring, stating 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."[17]

Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner[edit]

Thornton was appointed the UK's Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner in February 2019[18] and took up the role on 1 May 2019[19]. 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.


Order of the British Empire (Civil) Ribbon.png Queens Police Medal for Merit.png
Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal ribbon.png QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Police Long Service and Good Conduct ribbon.png

In June 2006 she was awarded the Queen's Police Medal (QPM).[20] She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to the police[21][22] and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to policing.[23]

In February 2013 she was assessed as the 18th most powerful woman in Britain by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[24]


  1. ^ "The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner". Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  2. ^ "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 Archived 19 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Force spending £1m on interpreters". The Guardian. 20 September 2007.[dead link]
  6. ^ a b Who's Who 2009. online edition: (London: A & C Black, 2008); online ed., (Oxford: OUP, 2008).
  7. ^ Amanda Perthen (6 February 2011), "Woman chief constable's relationship with married officer she took to banquets at Windsor Castle", Mail on Sunday, archived from the original on 14 April 2016
  8. ^ "Thames Valley Police pledge to solve more crimes". BBC News. 9 August 2010.
  9. ^ "Low police detection rates but good public opinion". GetSurrey. 21 July 2010.
  10. ^ "Sara Thornton to lead National Police Chiefs' Council". BBC News. 1 December 2014. Archived from the original on 26 November 2015.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Oxfordshire grooming victims may have totalled 373 children". BBC News. 3 March 2015.
  13. ^ "Ten charts on the rise of knife crime in England and Wales". BBC News. 4 March 2019. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  14. ^ "Police chief says rise in knife crime in England is national emergency". The Guardian. 6 March 2019. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  15. ^ UK's terror fight 'puts unsustainable strain on police' BBC
  16. ^ Don't cut police anti-terror budget as threat grows, warns top officer The Guardian
  17. ^ Police leader calls for laws to allow positive race discrimination The Guardian
  18. ^ "New Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner announced". GOV.UK. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  19. ^ "The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner". Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ "No. 59647". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2010. p. 8.
  22. ^ "Thames Valley Police chief constable appointed CBE". BBC News. 31 December 2010. Retrieved 31 December 2010.
  23. ^ "No. 62666". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 June 2019. p. B8.
  24. ^ BBC Radio 4, Woman's Hour Power list
Police appointments
Preceded by
Peter Neyroud
Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police
2007 to 2015
Succeeded by
Francis Habgood
Preceded by
Sir Hugh Orde
as President of the ACPO
Chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council
2015 to 2019
Succeeded by
Martin Hewitt

External links[edit]