Lancashire police to be questioned after sharing personal information about Nicola Bulley 3 months ago

Lancashire police to be questioned after sharing personal information about Nicola Bulley

The Home Secretary has also demanded answers

Lancashire Police will be questioned by an information watchdog over the decision to share information about Nicola Bulley's issues with alcohol.

On Wednesday, the force took the unusual step of revealing that the mum-of-two, who has been missing since January 27th, had been classified as "high-risk" owning to "a number of specific vulnerabilities".

After initially refusing to elaborate, the force released a statement saying 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."

Lancashire Police further detailed how officers had made a house call at Nicola's home the week before her disappearance to check on her welfare.

The move has been heavily criticised by MPs, former officers, and commentators.

Former detective Martyn Underhill told Sky News that Lancashire Police had "completely destroyed" Nicola's reputation and questioned why they were releasing it now. Underhill said he had never "seen such a level of detail" released in a missing persons case. And former chief crown prosecutor for the North West, Nazir Afzal, said the statement "should not have been issued" as it gives "fuel to the victim blamers, armchair sleuths & conspiracy theorists".

Peter Faulding, of Specialist Group International, who joined the search for the 45-year-old, slammed police saying the information would have changed the tactics he used.

And on Friday, a friend of Nicola's, who wanted to remain anonymous, claimed police revealed the details to "shift the focus" off them.


Conservative MP Alicia Kearns wrote: "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 and investigations. "I do see how it would assist those wishing to victim-blame or diminish."

On Friday, the Information Commission announced it would ask Lancashire Police to "set out how they reached the decision to disclose this information."

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.

The home secretary has also reportedly raised concerns about the releasing of the information.

A source close to Suella Braverman said she had "asked for an explanation", the BBC reported on Friday.

“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.”

Lancashire Police has also referred themselves to the official police watchdog - the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) - after it was revealed they had contact with Nicola in the weeks before she disappeared.

The IOPC said they were assessing the information to determine whether an investigation would be necessary over the contact.

A spokesman for the IOPC said: “This afternoon we received a referral from Lancashire Constabulary regarding contact the force had with Nicola Bulley on January 10, 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."