He has commissioned the College of Policing to undertake a full independent review, alongside the independent scrutiny that will come from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the Coronial process.
The College of Policing is the independent national standards setting body for policing, including the standards for police search, investigations, media relations and information management. The College’s Police National Search Centre (PNSC) also provides national training guidance to all police forces on search techniques including looking for missing people.
Although the hypothesis of the police investigation on how Nicola went missing was sadly proven to be correct, and significant resources were dedicated to the search, the case has prompted unprecedented public and media interest and certain elements of the how the case, and information relating to the investigation were handled, have been a cause for public concern.
The review will have three clear areas of focus; investigation and search, communication and public engagement, and the releasing of personal information.
Commissioner Andrew Snowden is responsible for holding Lancashire Constabulary to account for delivering policing that is efficient and effective, along with ensuring the police are answerable to the communities they serve.
Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden said: “This is a tragic case which has attracted unprecedented media and public interest. First and foremost, my thoughts remain with Nicola’s family and friends – who have suffered an unimaginable loss, made harder through being in the public eye.
“I’d like to thank all the police officers and staff, volunteers and members of the public who contributed to the search. The police’s working theory that Nicola sadly entered the river was correct, and I know how hard and tirelessly so many people worked to find her. Ultimately, this has always been about finding a missing mother, partner, sister, daughter and friend.
“The public understandably feel that there remain questions about the handling of elements of the police investigation, how it was communicated, and the decision to release personal information, which need to be answered and explained.
“In my role as Commissioner, as the public’s voice in policing in Lancashire, I also need to put in place the appropriate scrutiny to seek the right assurances and to ensure I am effectively holding the Constabulary to account.”
“I have therefore taken the decision to commission a full independent review into the handling of this case, with clearly defined terms of reference, to ensure lessons can be learned, not just for Lancashire, but for all forces. This includes how such cases can be best investigated and communicated under such spotlight and scrutiny.
“Yesterday I spoke with the Chief Executive of the College of Policing to agree the independent review and met with the Chief Officer Team of Lancashire Constabulary to outline the scope and nature of the review.
“Given the amount of misinformation on social media, poorly informed opinions given national airtime, the attacks on senior leaders personal appearance and family lives, along with the intrusion into the privacy of Nicola’s family, it is important that a professional, thorough, and informed review is undertaken by a national independent body, with the right skills and resources, understanding of the current standards and access to the investigation information.
“I am sure there will be lessons to be learned for Lancashire Constabulary, the broader policing sector and others from this case, as there are from most major investigations and I will keep the public informed of the findings in due course.”