Press Release

29 July 2020

Sandra Horley CBE is retiring after 37 years as the Chief Executive of Refuge

Sandra Horley CBE is retiring after 37 years as the Chief Executive and Company Secretary of Refuge at the end of October and stepping down from CEO duties with immediate effect due to planned leave.

Sandra has led Refuge since 1983, tirelessly working for the needs of women and children escaping domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence.

Sandra was awarded an OBE in 1999 ‘for services to the protection of women and children’ and CBE in 2011 ‘for services to the prevention of domestic violence.’ These notable awards illustrate her remarkable contribution to the country in placing the issues of domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence at the forefront of society.

Under Sandra’s direction and leadership over the last 37 years, Refuge as an organisation has grown from strength to strength and achieved outstanding success in becoming a credible expert in the sector and a vital support for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. We are the largest single provider of services in the UK, supporting over 6,500 survivors every day, through a 400 strong team of staff and volunteers.

Sandra Horley says: “Now is the right time for me to retire from Refuge. I am proud to have led the charity over the last 37 years. It is now established as the leading service provider in this country for those fleeing domestic abuse and other forms of gender based violence. It has also been at the forefront of the campaign to change social attitudes to these issues.”

On behalf of the Board and the entire staff team, the Chair, Hetti Barkworth-Nanton says: “I want to thank Sandra for her long and renowned career with Refuge and her unwavering support for the many women and children she has helped over the years. It’s an incredible achievement, devoting so much of her career and energy to a cause that we all care about so much. I wish her my very best wishes for the future and, as a Board alongside all of our staff and volunteers, we will do our absolute best to build on her legacy so Refuge can increase the support we provide for women and children escaping domestic abuse.”

Refuge’s Board of Trustees will now start recruiting for a new CEO. In the meantime, the Board has appointed an experienced leader, Carole Easton, as the interim CEO. Carole will work closely with the Board and the Senior Management Team to continue delivering lifesaving services to the women and children we work with.

For further information, please contact Carole Easton on For all media/communications queries, please contact