Wednesday, March 8, 2006

The Dunblane Massacre, Ten Years Later

Do you remember Dunblane? Ten years ago, a very evil person--one who had been warned by police that he was far too interested in little boys--went on a rampage, murdering 16 children with handguns. In response, something called the Snowdrop Campaign persuaded the British Parliament to ban all handguns. Now, remember, that handguns in Britain were very restrictively licensed in 1996. It was easier to get a permit to possess a handgun in New York City than in Britain. Yet this guy, who the police were already concerned about, had a license to own a handgun.

There have been allegations floating around for some time that Hamilton had a cozy relationship with the local police, and was allowed to keep his handgun license, in spite of reasons to think that he was a pedophile. Apparently, quite a number of documents related to the official inquiry into what happened were put under a 100 year seal, supposedly to protect the privacy of children that Hamilton had molested. But this report indicates that there were many documents sealed that do not fit into this explanation:
LETTERS between Labour and Tory ministers and correspondence relating to Thomas Hamilton's alleged involvement with Freemasonry are part of a batch of more than 100 documents about the Dunblane mass murder which have been sealed from public sight for 100 years.

The documents include a letter connected to Hamilton, which was sent by George Robertson, currently head of Nato, to Michael Forsyth, who was then Secretary of State for Scotland.

Until now it was thought that a 100-year public secrecy order had only been placed on one police report into Hamilton which allegedly named high-profile politicians and legal figures. However, a Sunday Herald investigation has uncovered that 106 documents, which were submitted to the Dunblane inquiry in 1996, were also placed under the 100-year rule.

The Scottish Executive has claimed the 100-year secrecy order was placed on the Central Police report, which was drafted in 1991 five years before the murders, to protect the identities of children named in the report. Hamilton had allegedly abused a number of children prior to his 1996 gun attack on Dunblane primary school in which 16 primary one children and a teacher died before Hamilton turned his gun on himself.

However, only a handful of the documents, which the Sunday Herald has discovered to be also subject to the 100-year rule, relate to children or name alleged abuse victims.

The most intriguing document is listed as: 'Copy of letter from Thomas Hamilton to Dunblane parents regarding boys' club, and flyer advertising Dunblane Boys' Sports Club. Both sent to Rt Hon Michael Forsyth, MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, by George Robertson MP.' Also closed under the 100-year rule is a 'submission to Lord James Douglas Hamilton, MP, Minister of State at the Scottish Office, concerning government evidence to the Inquiry'.

Another document relates to correspondence between the clerk of the Dunblane inquiry, which was presided over by Lord Cullen, and a member of the public regarding 'possible affiliations of Thomas Hamilton with Freemasonry ... and copy letters from Thomas Hamilton'.

SNP deputy justice minister, Michael Matheson, said: 'The explanation to date about the 100 -year rule was that it was put in place to protect the interests of children named in the Central Police report. How can that explanation stand when children aren't named? The 100-year rule needs to be re-examined with respect to all documents.'

Matheson has written to the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, asking why the 100-year rule applies and how it can be revoked. He has so far had no response. He also asked First Minister Jack McConnell to explain the reasons for the 100-year order but received 'no substantial answer'. Matheson is to write to Colin Boyd a second time, in the light of the discovery that more than 100 other documents are also sealed, asking him to account for the decision.
The Guardian, which is definitely on the left end of the newspaper spectrum in Britain, also raised questions about this:
There have been allegations that the lengthy closure order was placed on the report after it linked Hamilton to figures in the Scottish establishment, including two senior politicians and a lawyer.

But the crown office says the decision to impose the ban - by Lord Cullen, who chaired the inquiry - was made to protect the identity of children who may have been abused by Hamilton, and their families.

Following Wednesday's Scottish cabinet meeting, it was announced that the lord advocate, Colin Boyd QC, would look at the feasibility of publishing the report with the children's names deleted.

But Michael Matheson, the Scottish National party's shadow deputy justice minister, questioned whether the lord advocate's review would go far enough.

He said: "There are more documents covered by the 100-year rule than this police report. Some of them have nothing whatsoever to do with children. We need to look at why such a lengthy ban has been imposed on them.

"I have been contacted by a number of families affected by the tragedy who are anxious to ensure this information becomes public. And so far we have no guarantee that it will. We only have a review."

The report banned under the 100-year rule was com piled by Paul Hughes, then a detective sergeant with Central Scotland police, and concerns Thomas Hamilton's activities at a summer camp in Loch Lomond in 1991, five years before the shootings.

Selected extracts published during the Cullen inquiry revealed it recommended that Hamilton should be prosecuted for his activities at the summer camp and that he should have his gun licence revoked.

The report, however, was ignored. Although Lord Cullen referred to it in his inquiry, it does not feature in the index or appendices to his final report.
Now, at least some of these documents were apparently released last year, and Dr. Mick North, father of one of the children who was murdered, had some harsh words:
Dr Mick North, whose daughter Sophie died, said the authorities missed several opportunities to take action against Thomas Hamilton before he killed 16 children and their teacher.

He was speaking after reviewing hundreds of documents that were to have been "closed" for 100 years, but which will be made available for the first time today.

The files reveal that several complaints were made about Hamilton's behaviour towards children before the shootings at Dunblane Primary School in 1996.

Dr North said: "The documents I viewed confirmed what I believed I knew about the role of the police and the involvement of the procurator fiscal service. There was incompetence.

"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."
There are allegations which appeared in a Daily Telegraph article (now beyond the archive wall) that Hamilton was allowed to keep his handgun license--in spite of clearly not being a "suitable" person to have one--because he was a supplier of child pornography to important people within the police force and government:
"I believe that Hamilton was a major provider of pornographic photographs and videos to a ring of men prominent in Central Scotland, including police officers who protected him from numerous allegations of physical abuse at boys' camps and clubs he ran. They protected themselves after the massacre which conveniently ended in his suicide."

Last year Ms Uttley's former partner, Mick North, whose five-year-old daughter Sophie was killed, said he was "convinced" of a cover-up.
Of course, bizarre conspiracy theories are always more interesting than simple police incompetence. But you have examples such as the "Lords of Bakersfield," where a small circle of sexual misfits in important positions seem to have used their influence to cover up little matters such as the sexual abuse of teenagers and murder.

I don't know what the truth of the matter is with respect to Dunblane. I do know that police corruption in the issuance of gun licenses in those parts of the United States where police have discretion has been a problem for many decades; I would be startled to see this not be a problem elsewhere.

I suppose if restrictive licensing actually worked as claimed--that it keeps guns away from people that are dangerous, or who can't be trusted with guns--there might be some argument for it. I still think the argument is not persuasive, but the fact is that people like Hamilton got a handgun license in Britain tells me that restrictive licensing does not even do a good job within the "We're from the government, and we know better" model.

The partner of the father of one of the victims has written a very controversial book:
The book, Dunblane Unburied, has been written by Sandra Uttley, the former partner of Dr Mick North, an anti-gun campaigner whose five-year-old daughter, Sophie, was killed in the massacre.


The book includes allegations of a cover-up involving senior police officers and legal figures about their links with Thomas Hamilton, the gunman who shot dead 16 pupils and a teacher before killing himself on March 13, 1996, at Dunblane primary school.

It claims Lord Cullen, who conducted the inquiry into the massacre, was deliberately denied access to more than the 1,000 witness statements and concludes that the handgun ban was unnecessary.

Uttley, who lived in Dunblane for 20 years, said the aim of her book was to set the record straight about the protection she believes Hamilton received from official sources. “The parents wouldn’t help, so I went to the next biggest aggrieved group — shooters,” she said.

“It has always been my aim to get the truth. The handgun ban was to be the great legacy of this horrendous mass murder and, as a former Dunblane resident, I supported the Snowdrop petition to do away with guns.

“However, the more involved I became in the background surrounding the massacre, the more I realised that the gun ban was beside the point. Hamilton could have been stopped. The legislation in 1996 was strong enough. It was corruption that gave him guns.["]
I suppose that I should get a copy of it.

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