The office of the independent anti-slavery commissioner has refused to comment on reports that chief constable Sara Thornton will be the new anti-slavery tsar.
The Sunday Times reported that Thornton, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and a former chief constable for Thames Valley Police, was set to be appointed, eight months after the resignation of Kevin Hyland.
Speaking to SM, a spokeswoman for the commissioner’s office would not confirm the appointment, but said the process of appointing a new commissioner was in its final stages.
Thornton is set to leave her post as NPCC chair in March 2019 and commence in her new role later this year, according to the Sunday Times.
Reacting to reports, Caroline Robinson, chief executive of FLEX, a non-profit focusing on labour exploitation, said: “We will be calling on Ms Thornton to apply strong scrutiny to government anti-slavery policy and to listen to a wide range of voices from civil society in setting the direction of her office.”
The appointment comes almost a year after the resignation of former anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland who claimed in his resignation letter he had been frustrated by government interference.
In an interim review into the effectiveness of the Modern Slavery Act, MPs called for the recruitment process for a new commissioner to be scrapped amid concerns that Hyland had not been free to criticise the government’s role in tackling modern slavery. The review said the job description for the new commissioner failed to take these concerns into account.
The politicians behind the review, Frank Field (Independent), Maria Miller (Conservative) and the Baroness Butler-Sloss, said the requirement in the job advert for the tsar's performance to be reviewed annually by the Home Office was of “particular concern”.
They said: “This fundamentally contradicts our conclusion in this report that Home Office officials should play no part in the direction-setting or appraisal of the role.”
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