Lancashire Police to conduct internal review into Nicola Bulley investigation

Emma Sweeney reporting from St Michael's On Wyre

Lancashire Police is set to conduct an internal review into the Nicola Bulley investigation, the force has confirmed.

The force confirmed a date had been set for the review, which will be conducted by their Head of Crime, Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables.

In a statement, a spokeswoman said: “A review of the investigation is diarised and will be conducted by our Head of Crime Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables.

“She is also PIP 4 accredited and has attended the national reviewer course.”

Lancashire Police speaking at a press conference on Wednesday 15 Feburary. Credit: PA Images

It is the latest in a series of criticisms of the force, who took the "unusual step" to reveal why Nicola was classed a high risk by police.

In a statement, following a press conference the force said: "Sadly, it is clear from speaking to Paul and the family that Nicola had in the past suffered with some significant issues with alcohol which were brought on by her ongoing struggles with the menopause and that these struggles had resurfaced over recent months."

Below we look at who else is criticising Lancashire Constabulary and why.

Accusations of sexism

Dame Vera Baird said she believed Lancashire Constabulary had made a “dreadful error” in disclosing the missing mother-of-two’s vulnerabilities.

She also said she is worried it will stop people making complaints in the future and wondered if such details would have been released if she was a man.

Dame Vera told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m afraid this is the biggest error that I have seen for quite a long time. It’s going to just, you know, very sadly, to undermine trust in the police yet further.

“I’m sure they would have explained themselves if they had an explanation… if it was relevant, it needed to be in a public domain at the start and it wasn’t. I mean, that is a really worrying error. It is frankly dreadful."

A demand for answers by the Home Secretary

The Home Secretary has demanded an "explanation" from Lancashire Police as to why aspects of missing Nicola Bulley's private life were disclosed at a press conference, a source close to Suella Braverman said.

Ms Braverman was reportedly "concerned" after the force told reporters Ms Bulley suffered "some significant issues with alcohol" in the past, which had resurfaced over recent months.

The Home Offie is receiving regular updates from Lancashire Police Credit: PA Images

According to a source close to the Home Secretary, she received an explanation from police on Thursday 16 February.

The Home Office also said it was receiving regular updates from the force about its handling of the case - including "why personal details about Nicola was briefed out at this stage of the investigation".

A referral to police watchdog the IOPC

Lancashire Police have referred themselves to a watchdog following a visit to Nicola Bulley's house prior to her disappearance.

The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) said in a statement: "This afternoon we received a referral from Lancashire Constabulary regarding contact the force had with Nicola Bulley on 10 January prior to her disappearance."

"We are assessing the available information to determine whether an investigation into that contact may be required and if so, who should conduct that investigation."

Lancashire Police have frequently come under fire in the investigation. Credit: PA Images

An investigation from the Information Commissioner

The Information Commissioner will be asking Lancashire Police about the decision to disclose missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and HRT, he said in a statement.

Information Commissioner John Edwards said: “Data protection law exists to ensure people’s personal information is used properly and fairly.

"This includes ensuring personal details are not disclosed inappropriately. Police can disclose information to protect the public and investigate crime, but they would need to be able to demonstrate such disclosure was necessary.

“We recognise that at this stage of an intensive, live investigation, the force must focus all their energies on the inquiry.

"But given the high-profile nature of this case, we will be asking Lancashire Police to set out how they reached the decision to disclose this information in due course.”

Revealing personal information

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Twitter: "I am deeply uncomfortable with the police releasing Nicola Bulley's so-called 'vulnerabilities' on menopause and alcohol.

"I struggle to ascertain how this will assist police in their search & investigations. I do see how it would assist those wishing to victim-blame or diminish."

Silkie Carlo, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, tweeted: "Lancashire Police broadcasting missing Nicola Bulley's health issues and hormone status to the world is a serious invasion of her privacy with no obvious benefits for the investigation.

"A shocking decision when the police's treatment of women is rightly in the spotlight.

"It's not at all clear how the police are justifying this disclosure, which seems to be aimed at shoring up public support for Lancashire Police's own forgone conclusions.

"The ramifications of this invasion of medical privacy could be really serious, including for Nicola's safety."

Political leaders

Rishi Sunak said that he is concerned that the information was put into the public domain and is pleased the police are investigating.

He added: "My thoughts are with Nicola's friends and family and the focus must be to continue to try and find her."

Sir Keir Starmer has said he was “very surprised to see what the police had put out there” when they released information about missing Nicola Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and the menopause.

In an interview with Times Radio, which will be broadcast from 5pm, the Labour leader said: “I was very surprised to see what the police had put out there.

Sir Keir Starmer said “very surprised to see what the police had put out there”. Credit: PA Images

“I was not sure why that degree of personal information was necessary.

“I think I read that they had spoken to the family about it, but I was very surprised. If there is, in the fullness of time, a good justification then so be it but I think most people would be very uncomfortable. I certainly felt uncomfortable with that private information being put in the public domain.”

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