Suella Braverman has spoken with Lancashire Constabulary about her concerns over the force publicly disclosing personal information about missing woman Nicola Bulley.
The force has come under fire for what has been labelled a “sexist” error when they disclosed information about Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and the menopause following a press conference.
A source close to the Home Secretary said that Ms Braverman outlined her concerns over the disclosure during a meeting with the force’s leadership on Friday, and that she has asked to be kept updated on the investigation.
“The Home Secretary today spoke with Lancashire Police Chief Constable Chris Rowley and his senior team to discuss the handling of the investigation into the disappearance of Nicola Bulley,” the source said.
“She outlined her concerns over the disclosure of Ms Bulley’s personal information and listened to the force’s explanation.
“The Home Secretary asked to be kept updated on the investigation.”
He told broadcasters he was “pleased that the police are looking at how that happened in the investigation”.
The force confirmed a date has been set for an internal review into the investigation, which will be conducted by their Head of Crime, Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables.
Former victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she believed the force had made a “dreadful error” in releasing details of the missing mother-of-two’s vulnerabilities.
On Thursday, a source close to the Home Secretary had said that she was “concerned” about the police’s behaviour.
Confirming he agreed with Ms Braverman, the PM told broadcasters on Friday: “Well I agree with the Home Secretary, and like her I was concerned that private information was put into the public domain.
“I’m pleased that the police are looking at how that happened in the investigation.
“Obviously my thoughts are with Nicola’s friends and family and the focus must now be on continuing to try and find her.”
The Independent Office for Police Conduct said it had received a referral from the force regarding the contact officers had with Ms Bulley on January 10 – before she went missing.
In a statement confirming the internal review, a police 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.”
Ms Bulley vanished after dropping off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school on January 27 in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
She was last seen at 9.10am taking her usual route with her springer spaniel Willow, alongside the River Wyre.
Her phone, still connected to a work call for her job as a mortgage adviser, was found just over 20 minutes later on a bench overlooking the riverbank, with her dog running loose.
Information Commissioner John Edwards said he will be asking Lancashire Police about its decision to disclose Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and HRT.
He said in a statement: “Data protection law exists to ensure people’s personal information is used properly and fairly. This includes ensuring personal details are not disclosed inappropriately.”
“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.”
On February 3, the force told the public of its main hypothesis that Ms Bulley had fallen into the River Wyre in a “10-minute window” between 9.10am and 9.20am on the day she disappeared.
The search for her has since been extended to the sea but she has not been found.