Police 'missed five chances' to take action against pervert cop Luke Horner who went on to sexually exploit Rushden girl
A report into how former Thames Valley PC Luke Horner was able to encourage a 13-year-old Rushden girl to have sex with him and film it has shown that the force could have taken action against him on five separate occasions.
Following his arrest for penetrative sexual activity with a child,His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) had been asked to review the force’s actions surrounding Horner’s appointment and subsequent vetting
Their report found that Horner ‘was not suitable’ to be a police officer and that he had not been asked during vetting about a potential sexual assault allegation against him. Vetting staff had also failed to ask the army why Horner had left the army early.
Horner had also been involved in several incidents that could have amounted to gross misconduct.
Last month he was jailed for more than six years last month at Northampton Crown Court.
This newspaper revealed that Horner had previously been investigated after an anonymous report to Crimestoppers, but that the force had taken no further action against the predator.
Now the HMICFRS report into the force’s conduct has shown that Thames Valley Police lost opportunities to take stricter action against him, but it could not have reasonably anticipated he would commit this crime.
It 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.
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.”
Who is Luke Horner?
Horner, of Lakeland Drive, Aylesbury, joined the army in January 2019 but only served for a year. The HMICFRS report noted that it is unusual for a soldier to leave the army purely because of a lack of job satisfaction and that vetting enquiries, had they been carried out, may have revealed other reasons for him leaving the army early.
He applied for vetting to join Thames Valley Police in May 2020 and passed the process in June 2020.
He joined TVP on 20 January 2021. After his initial training he was posted to Amersham police station as a uniformed patrol officer. He remained in that role until the date of his arrest and suspension.
In a two year period in the police he had eight periods of sickness totalling 53 days. and was the subject of four attendance action plans during his service.
He was also the subject of a performance improvement plan because of a series of errors in his work, one of which resulted in misconduct proceedings.
He was arrested inside the police station in June this year by Northamptonshire Police.
What chances to take action did TVP miss?
Lost opportunity 1 – The force vetting unit found that Luke Horner hadn’t disclosed on his vetting form the following incidents where he had previously come into contact with the police including where he was a victim of blackmail aged after sending a naked picture of himself.
In 2016, Horner rang Thames Valley Police, asking if the force had received a report of sexual assault naming him as the suspect. The force took no further action to try to identify if there had been such an assault.
In addition, the vetting officer found that Horner hadn’t declared on his vetting form that he had been in a relationship with another TVP officer.
In relation to the blackmail incident Horner told the vetting team he had been going through puberty at that time and that he would never send naked pictures of himself again.
HMIFRCS report said that a potential allegation of sexual assault, even if self-referred, should have resulted in more scrutiny.
Lost opportunity 2 – no checks were carried out in relation to Horner’s previous army service in the army. At the time of Horner’s application to join the police, the force had decided it wouldn’t request references for external applicants.
When asked his reasons for leaving the army on his application form, Horner cited a lack of job satisfaction.
HMIFCRS said they would expect the vetting officer to have made enquiries with the army to check the type of engagement Horner enlisted for, and on what basis his term of service ended.
National recommendations on asking for references have now changed.
Lost opportunity 3 – In January 2021 Horner lied about completing an ICT training course in order to get access to software. HMICTS said it was an example of his apparent willingness to lie to colleagues.
Issues with his performance were identified in Feburary 2021 and Horner was described as ‘very immature’ with poor organisational skills.
On one occasion, officers found cannabis in Horner’s personal work tray which had been there weeks. On another occasion, his supervisors found in his bag a master copy of CCTV evidence. Horner told his supervisors that he didn’t know the process for dealing with evidence.
He was put on an informal development plan.
In March 2021 TVP received a complaint from a member of the public that Horner had given him a warning about his behaviour without questioning him about it first. This would have established he was talking with the wrong person. No one verified his explanation and no one identified the matter as a possible personal data breach which should have been referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
In April 2021, Horner was issued with a fixed penalty notice for speeding but didn’t notify the professional standards department.
On 11 November 2021 at 6.30am, Horner reported his body armour and police laptop had been stolen from his private car parked in his driveway. He had lied about the items in the car to his supervisor.
Forty minutes before his report, a member of the public found the a bag in a river half a mile from Horner’s house containing four pairs of recorded suspect interview discs; a disc of another recorded suspect interview; a disc containing a download from a suspect’s phone; Horner’s pocket notebook and Horner’s police laptop; and typed witness statement forms.
He was ordered to appear at a misconduct meeting on March 1, 2022, at which the chair found the matter proven and issued Horner with a written warning.
HMICFRS said the professional standards department investigation should have been more thorough and that there was enough information available to assess the circumstances as gross misconduct.
Lost opportunity 4 – Following the misconduct meeting, the circumstances were referred to the force vetting unit to review Horner’s status.
On 4 February 2022, TVP’s counter-corruption unit received anonymous intelligence from Crimestoppers to suggest Horner had been chatting online to a 15-year-old female and had repeatedly asked her to send him naked pictures of herself.
When a person gives information to Crimestoppers, they have the option to keep communication channels open for 14 days.
A counter-corruption investigator requested further information from the informant via Crimestoppers and passed on their contact details but made no further attempts to try to communicate with the informant within the 14-day period.
He reviewed Horner’s social media and emails and texts and the regional organised crime unit was asked to carry out covert online enquiries, to see if Horner was engaging with victims online but no more information was gained.
Lost opportunity 5 – Force counter-corruption units usually hold risk registers of officers who pose a potential risk to the public or force. Horner’s details weren’t on TVP’s register.
In February 2022, Horner’s supervisors decided to start the Regulation 13 process designed to deal with officers in their probationary period who aren’t ‘likely to become an efficient or well conducted constable’.
But in October 2022, Horner’s probationary period ended, and he was confirmed in the rank of constable.
Horner had told his sergeant in February 2023 that he had moved house but it was not correctly recorded on TVP systems on the day of his arrest.
In March, 2023, TVP received a complaint from a father who said Horner had issued a community resolution notice to his 15-year-old daughter for an assault without her parents weren’t present.
In May 2023, an officer reported to their inspector that the day before Horner had aimed his taser at a colleague and had ‘red-dotted’ him. Activating the laser is classed as the taser being ‘used’. Horner said that he had pointed his taser at the other officer but the red light had only come on for a second when he did the safety check. The inspector removed both officers’ taser authority for 12 months. Horner’s taser data showed that the taser was activated on two occasions – once for eight seconds and the other for seven seconds.
What happens now?
HMICFRS concluded that the force could have reasonably anticipated that Horner would commit such abhorrent sexual offences against a child but have encouraged the force to address a series of action points.
They will carry out a wider professional standards, vetting and counter-corruption inspection by mid-2024.
What did TVP say?
Thames Valley Police Deputy Chief Constable Ben Snuggs said: “Our thoughts remain with the young girl and her family who have been affected by Horner's criminal behaviour.
"Such behaviour has no place in policing or in society.
"We are grateful for His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) insight.
"In its report, HMICFRS highlights we could not have anticipated that Horner would end up committing such abhorrent sexual offences against a child.
"It also agreed with our decision to grant vetting clearance, and that our processes were consistent with national practice at the time."
You can read the full HMICFRS report here.