THE DUNBLANE SHOOTINGS AND GUN LAWOn the 13th. March 1996, Thomas Hamilton (43) walked into Dunblane Primary School armed with 4 legally held weapons. In the space of 3 minutes he shot 3 staff and 28 pupils. Of these 1 staff member died and 16 children were killed.
For parents, police, Government ministers and the gun lobby the question is whether the private ownership of handguns should be banned. A variety of views are held.
THE PARENTS VIEW :
Michael North, whose daughter Sophie was killed at Dunblane, wrote the following comments in the Sunday Times [13.10.96]
"It is time to turn the tide against gun culture. Hand-guns were designed for one purpose only -to kill. They weren't banned after Hungerford because of the pressure of the gun lobby. Public safety was sacrificed to preserve a privilege for a minority who have had a disproportionate influence on our law-makers. Campaigning for a total ban on hand-guns will ensure that this country becomes a safer place."
THE POLICE VIEW :
Tough action on guns is urged by the Association of Chief Police Officers, which supports banning people from owning hand-guns other than .22 single-shot weapons.
THE GOVERNMENT VIEW :
John Major was deeply affected by his visit to the scene of the ~Dunblane shootings.
Michael Forsyth, the Scottish Secretary (whose constituency includes Dunblane), argues for a ban on privately owned hand-guns except .22 single-shot sporting pistols.
Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, noted the difficulties of imposing restrictions ( compare this with the similar problem of combat knives).
THE GUN LOBBY :
The powerful gun lobby have argued that the Dunblane and Hungerford incidents are isolated incidents; that a ban would not stop a psychopath from acquiring a weapon. Equally, a ban would deprives 100's of thousands of the pleasure of shooting. The gun lobby argue that there is a lack of evidence to show that licensed weapons are used in violent crimes.
1994 - 1996 = 196 MURDERS AND MANSLAUGHTERS IN BRITAIN.
Nearly 50 % of domestic killings were with legally held weapons.
Nearly 20 % of homicidal killings were with legally held weapons.
The article below was taken from the Scotland on Sunday: Sun 2 Oct 2005. It is largely self explanatory but I fear our masters have not released all - I shall see what the next few days brings and if necessary provide a helping hand.
Mick North, the father of one victim, has seen the files.
Dunblane: files show police flaws
By MARCELLO MEGA
SECRET files on the Dunblane massacre that are finally opened to the public tomorrow will confirm incompetence among police and prosecutors, but demolish widespread claims of conspiracy and cover-up.
The father of one of the victims has already been given access to the files, which he says prove that police failed to take proper action against Thomas Hamilton despite numerous separate incidents that were cause for concern.
Dr Mick North, whose only daughter Sophie was one of the 16 children murdered with their teacher in March 1996, examined all 106 files which were originally "closed" for 100 years but will be open to inspection from tomorrow.
North says the papers explain away several sensational theories about the killings, including one suggestion that police officers had been tipped off that Hamilton was about to go on a rampage. The truth, he says, is that off-duty officers were simply dropping off their own children at the school.
But North concludes that the "arrogant" decision to try to lock away the papers for a century fuelled many wild and hurtful theories.
The thousands of documents were viewed by North in the Crown Office HQ in Edinburgh and include thousands of pages of police and witness statements, medical reports and autopsy examinations.
North said: "The documents I viewed in many ways confirmed what I already believed I knew about the role of the police and the involvement of the procurator fiscal service."
Hamilton's behaviour in the years before the massacre caused great concern and the documents prove a lack of joined-up thinking among police and prosecutors.
North said: "You have a situation where a number of reports are being received by the police of behaviour towards children that is worrying, and these reports outline similar types of behaviour.
"Yet every incident was viewed in isolation. Someone was behaving inappropriately, repeatedly showing aggression towards children, and the margins of the system were not flexible enough to allow the matter to be investigated properly."
North's examination of the documents has also reinforced his concerns about the Cullen Inquiry into the massacre itself. "One of the clearest conclusions I can draw from the vast quantity of documents I viewed is that the inquiry did nothing to address this key point: how should society deal with an individual like Hamilton?" he said.
"Too often the inquiry appeared as a process run by the Establishment largely for the benefit of the Establishment in an attempt to minimise damage and to reassure the public that there was not too much to worry about. Yet the arrogant decision to hide these documents away has left a festering sore that has never healed."
North also says the documents prove that police misled the inquiry about when parents were told their children had died.
"Parents of the children who died were not informed until 2:30pm at the earliest, yet the police said the time was 1:30pm. It's impossible to know why this discrepancy occurred because it was not examined, but it's inexcusable because the same documents reveal all the identifications were complete by 1pm.
"In fact, I learned that by 10.20pm staff had identified about half of the children, yet it seems a decision was made that their parents should not be informed until the process was complete.
"There was no explanation of that. Presumably it was for operational reasons in that it made their job easier, but it was not necessarily in our interests."
Despite his concerns, North insists the documents laid to rest many of the conspiracy theories around the shooting.
One of the most persistent was the suggestion that Hamilton received favours from friends in the Central Scotland Police force that enabled him to keep his gun licence.
North said that while Hamilton had friends in the force, the documents he had viewed did not suggest they had provided significant support to him.
One officer acknowledged Hamilton was in the habit of contacting him to "discuss matters he [Hamilton] feels are important" and to inform him where and when his youth camps would take place, but insisted there was no more than that to their relationship.
He added: "One of the most striking things about the documents was the voluminous correspondence Hamilton entered into, particularly with the police. He wrote incessantly to senior officers and to politicians and copied them in on letters to others.
Considerable interest has also centred on the presence of an off-duty police officer at the school at the time of the shootings and about the fact he was never identified or called to give evidence when he played a significant part in the immediate aftermath.
Conspiracy theorists have suggested the police were tipped off that an armed man was heading for the school and that officers were dispatched - and even that Hamilton had not taken his own life but was shot by the police.
North said the truth was far simpler. "There were actually two off-duty officers at the school, simply because they were dropping their own children at the nursery, which didn't start until 9.30am. One of them left and returned home, although he went back almost immediately on hearing there had been an incident to check his child was safe.
"The other officer was elsewhere in the school when he heard the disturbance. Understandably, he went to see what had happened and was one of the first people into the gym.
"He saw the janitor kick a gun lying close to Hamilton's body away from him and called to him not to move anything else as he understood the importance of preserving the scene."
Doubts have also been expressed about the manner of Hamilton's death, but North said the forensic pathologist's report leaves no room for doubt that Hamilton took his own life with a single shot.
It has also been suggested that Hamilton was part of a paedophile ring, supplying his photographs of scantily clad boys to fellow members, and that some might have been police officers. North said the documents contained no evidence of such activity.
North said: "I do realise that some might feel I've fallen hook, line and sinker for the official version of events.
"But having seen the entire collection of files, I believe it would have been impossible to fillet out selected documents so successfully without the gaps becoming obvious to a careful reader. There simply is no evidence of any conspiracy to prevent the truth emerging or to protect any individual."
North, who would have been celebrating Sophie's 15th birthday today, said: "I hope lessons have been learned, about how society should deal with someone in a community who behaves persistently in an alarming manner, and about how a public inquiry should treat those directly involved in a tragedy.
"It was arrogant in the extreme to hide these papers away for 100 years without consulting those of us most closely affected. Our interest did not cease because Lord Cullen had written his report.
"I realise that some questions do remain, but I am satisfied that nothing untoward contributed to that. There seems little point in continuing to bang our heads off a brick wall. It is time to put the matter to rest."
Sunday, 9 February, 2003, 16:17 GMT BBC NEWS
Dunblane report inquiry call
Floral tribute after Dunblane massacre
Scotland's most senior law officer is being urged to explain why a police report on the Dunblane massacre was allegedly banned from being published for 100 years.
An MSP called on Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC to comment on Sunday newspaper claims it was suppressed because it revealed links between Thomas Hamilton and a number of prominent Scots.
"There is also a suggestion that the report may be being kept secret in order to protect a couple of well-known individuals who had an association with Thomas Hamilton.
"The other question I'm raising is whether it's appropriate for this 100-year ruling to apply given that we have now moved to a system of freedom of information."
Mr Matheson said he would consult Scotland's future Freedom of Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion over the ban's legitimacy. He said: "It really is a question of whether it's appropriate that this kind of ruling should be being made given that we're meant to be in a free society."
The MSP would not comment on the identity of the people allegedly mentioned in the report. A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said it was extremely unlikely that access would be given to anyone when the identification of child victims was at risk.
Robertson sues over Dunblane killer allegations
By Dan McDougall
LORD Robertson has started a landmark legal action against a Scottish newspaper over internet allegations falsely accusing him of helping Thomas Hamilton, the Dunblane killer, obtain his gun licence.
The secretary general of NATO has lodged a writ with the Court of Session in Edinburgh demanding £200,000 compensation over the claims, plus the full costs of the action.
The writ claims that comments posted on the message board of the Sunday Herald newspaper’s website, accusing him of signing a firearms certificate recommendation for Hamilton and using his influence to force the police to ignore their suspicions about the killer, were "false and calumnious".
Lord Robertson, the former defence secretary, also claims the allegations could hinder his chances of finding another job when he stands down as the head of NATO later this year.
The comments made on the website on 9 February were prompted by an on-line discussion forum for readers relating to public concern that certain documents relating to the Dunblane massacre of March 1996 were to remain classified for 100 years.
Under the headline: "Should the Dunblane dossier be kept secret?", the newspaper website invited readers to comment on speculation that prominent Scots were closely linked to Hamilton, asking: "Is the secrecy a smokescreen?"
An allegation was posted on the board by a reader incorrectly claiming that the then Mr Robertson had signed a firearms certificate recommendation because he was Thomas Hamilton’s MP.
Mr Robertson actually represented Hamilton South, was never Thomas Hamilton’s MP and never signed such a document.
The writ says that a second message posted by a different reader said: "As for that Robertson bloke! Never did trust him. How did he get that job as head of NATO?" Another contributor claimed: "People are being protected here."
In his writ, Lord Robertson claims that due to a lack of website policing, the offending comments remained on the newspaper’s internet message board for more than three weeks and were read by an estimated 600,000 people before they were removed.
It is not known if the identity of the individuals who made the statements will be made public but they are alleged to be registered users of the Sunday Herald message board. The newspaper refused to comment.
Lord Robertson’s representative, Martin Smith, a leading libel lawyer, was unavailable for comment. Lord Robertson’s spokesman at NATO said: "It is a private matter."
In 1996, Mr Robertson told Lord Cullen’s public inquiry into the Dunblane massacre that he became concerned about Hamilton’s militaristic camps after his own son attended Dunblane Rovers, a boys’ club run by Hamilton, in 1983. He spoke of his fears to Michael Forsyth, the MP for Stirling (where Hamilton lived) and the Scottish secretary at the time of the massacre.
Mr Robertson kept him informed about Hamilton’s clubs, sending documents highlighting parents’ concerns. These documents are banned from public view under Lord Cullen’s 100-year rule.
There has yet to be a test case in Scotland of whether a company is responsible for information posted on internet message boards. Gordon Deane, a partner in commercial litigation with Shepherd & Wedderburn, said: "The nature of the internet means documents published and uploaded in one country can be viewed and downloaded all over the world, exposing publishers to the libel laws of potentially any nation which provides internet access."
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