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Wednesday 09 September 2015, 3:48 PM

An 83 year old Brockworth resident has been singled out for a special award for his unstinting support to adult and juvenile detainees for over 21 years.

John Thornhill, who is now 83, is finally retiring from a voluntary role as an Appropriate Adult, and has been awarded a Chief Constable’s Community Service Award for his dedicated service  during over two decades – described in his citation as a ‘fantastic achievement’.

The Appropriate Adult scheme is provided by the charity Cheltenham-based County Community Projects in partnership with Gloucestershire Constabulary and Gloucestershire County Council.

The scheme not only supports individual detainees while in custody, both adults and juveniles, but also helps the custody sergeant and investigating officer in ensuring the detainee’s welfare needs are catered for and that the case run smoothly.

John received his award from the Chief Constable, Suzette Davenport, at a ceremony at Gloucestershire Constabulary’s Waterwells HQ in Quedgeley.

John said:

“It has been a hugely rewarding experience, as well as fascinating. It came about after I retired from ICI. I was a Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator for Longlevens and was invited by a police acquaintance to take on the role of an Appropriate Adult.

“I reckon I have done the role in over 2,750 cases.  If not a record, that might be fairly close. It was a new world for me, and when I started I had never been in a police custody site. When that custody door shuts on a detainee it can be a disturbing and disorientating environment.

“For me it was a chance to help and comfort people in trouble. I would speak to them about anything and everything, and people would often come up to me at a later date in the street and re-introduce themselves, which was really gratifying. 

There are lots of amusing anecdotes – I would often help released detainees get home, and on one occasion someone couldn’t remember where he lived. We tried lots of addresses until we found the right one!

“Another time I took someone home only for his mum to contact police and ask where he was. He had promptly left home again and provoked a ‘Missing Person’ scare. After that I always handed them over to an actual person – you learn from experience.

I loved the role and it was a privilege - if I helped just one youngster back on to the straight and narrow, then it was worth it.”

Andrew Erving, Appropriate Adult Business Manager, who recommended John for the role, said:

“John has been utterly dedicated to this work for over 20 years. Responding to calls for help both day and night, he has proved extremely popular and is highly spoken of in custody suites, by detainees and the police alike, even when taking a firm stand for a detainee’s rights.

“People have specifically asked for John to be their supporter, and it is no surprise at all that former detainees come up to him in the street and say hello.

“He thoroughly deserves the award.” 

John and his wife Mary, who were both at the award ceremony, will remain busy, with a daughter Jane, two grandchildren and three great grandchildren to keep an eye on.

John and Mary are pictured at the award ceremony.

Anyone interested in becoming an Appropriate Adult is welcome to find out more from the CCP website, on  


Tel 01242 222999

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