Braverman appoints new anti-slavery commissioner after 18-month void

The role has been vacant since Dame Sara Thornton stepped down in April 2022
Photo: Adobe Stock

By Jonathan Owen

16 Oct 2023

Home secretary Suella Braverman has appointed deputy children’s commissioner Eleanor Lyons as the new independent anti-slavery commissioner some 18 months after the previous incumbent, Dame Sara Thornton, stepped down from the role.

The role was created under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and is independent of government. But the function has had a “reduced office” since Thornton left in April 2022, with staff having “no remit to provide views or take on or contribute to new work,” according to the IASC website. 

Thornton resigned on 30 April last year over concerns at the government's lack of prioritisation of anti-slavery under then-prime minister and home secretary Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, including its anti-immigration bill which makes it easier to deport victims of slavery.

Announcing the new appointment this week, Braverman said: “I congratulate Eleanor Lyons on her appointment and look forward to working with her to tackle modern slavery. She will provide tremendous insight and expertise as she takes up this role.”

Lyons has been tasked with encouraging good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of slavery and human trafficking offences and in the identification of victims.

She will work alongside the government in its “implementation of the reform of National Referral Mechanism to improve the UK’s ability to identify and support victims of modern slavery,” according to the Home Office.

In addition, Lyons will be expected to “commission specific research, studies and inquiries to strengthen the evidence base on modern slavery to support the mobilisation of appropriate responses and the commissioning of interventions”.

Lyons, a special adviser to the prime minister, defence secretary, and chief whip between 2017 and 2019 before a stint as director at PR firm Portland Communications, will start her three-year term as independent anti-slavery commissioner in December.

She commented: “Modern slavery and human trafficking are abhorrent crimes. Our response must be focused on prosecuting those responsible, preventing further exploitation and protecting victims, particularly those least often heard.”

Lyons added: “I am committed to a victim-centric approach and to ensuring that survivors’ experiences inform my work to effect meaningful change.”


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