Thames Valley Police lost opportunities to take stricter action against officer who later committed child sexual offence
Thames Valley Police lost opportunities to take stricter action against a police officer who went on to commit a child sexual offence, but it could not have reasonably anticipated he would commit this crime, a new inspection has found.
Get the letter
In August 2023, Thames Valley Police officer Luke Horner pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in penetrative sexual activity with a child aged 13-15. He was sentenced earlier this month to six years and four months in prison.
His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) was commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley to consider if there had been any lost opportunities in how the force dealt with intelligence and information relating to PC Horner during his service.
HMICFRS concluded that Thames Valley Police could not have reasonably anticipated PC Horner would commit such abhorrent sexual offences against a child.
However, the inspectorate found that the force lost at least five opportunities to take stricter action against him both at the initial vetting stage and during his police service, which could have led to him being refused initial vetting clearance or dismissed.
- at the initial vetting stage, the force should have made further enquiries into two separate issues; a potential sexual assault allegation and his early departure from the army; and
- during his police service, the force failed to identify that there were questions about his honesty and integrity which arose following several incidents – and when considered together, these incidents clearly indicated that PC Horner was not suited to being a police officer.
His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Roy Wilsher said:
“Having robust vetting processes is vital for forces in being able to identify any misconduct, dismiss officers and staff if they are not fit for the job and prevent unsuitable officers joining in the first place.
“While we found that Thames Valley Police could not have reasonably anticipated PC Horner would commit such an abhorrent crime, we found at least five lost opportunities where the force could have taken stricter action against him.
“It is very clear, particularly when considered alongside other incidents which took place during his police service, PC Horner was not suited to being a police officer.
“We have identified several areas of learning which we encourage the force to address. We will revisit the force as part of our rolling programme of inspections in 2024 and will look at their vetting, professional standards and counter-corruption arrangements in more detail.”
Get the letter
- For further information, please contact the HMICFRS Press Office on 0300 071 6781 or HMICPressOffice@hmicfrs.gov.uk.
- The timeline for our inspection was from PC Horner’s initial application to become a police officer to the date of the offence. We did not consider the circumstances of the offence.