DUNBLANE: Parents of victims issue
emotional pleas over firearms
By Jim Rougvie
THE failure of Central Scotland Police to investigate
properly Thomas Hamilton's background and their failure to take
away his guns amounted to "dereliction of duty of the highest
order," counsel for the families of the dead children said
Colin Campbell QC, suggested the massacre of 16
children and their teacher in Dunblane primary school might not
have happened if the police had done their duty.
He told the Cullen Inquiry: "Good reasons
for the revocation or refusal of his licence abounded. Very
sadly, it is clear they were ignored and but for the firearms department's
culpable failure to remove these weapons, this terrible tragedy
would not have occurred."
Mr Campbell accused the former
chief constable, Douglas McMurdo, who
rubber-stamped Hamilton's last licence in 1995 which armed him for
the massacre LINK,
of having exercised extremely poor judgement in rejecting a memo
detailing concerns about Hamilton. LINK
Mr Campbell said Mr McMurdo,
now assistant chief inspector of constabulary, had insisted during
his evidence there were no "contra indicators" about Mr
McMurdo's competence and the culture and ethos prevalent in the
firearms department of Central Scotland Police."
He said both Mr McMurdo and
a senior subordinate had acted "in accordance with the general
custom and practice in the department - namely that in the absence
of something incontrovertible such as a serious conviction or a
pending case - the police would not take the responsibility, they
would not even begin to exercise the discretion entrusted to them
by parliament of evaluating known evidence."
This, said Mr Campbell, could
only be the result of a slack and irresponsible culture built up
over the years in which the firearms licensing system operated on
a purely administrative basis, by administrators unwilling to take
decisions on which public safety depended.
Mr Campbell said the warning
signs about Hamilton were ignored. "The overall
system, such as it was, was riddled with defects and inadequacies.
Many played a contributory role.
"The system was woefully
inadequate in failing to give a complete picture of Hamilton.
Worryingly, Mr McMurdo did not see why a complete picture was necessary.
What seems to have happened is that isolated incidents were considered
on their own and then forgotten, or at least ignored, when further
Yesterday, the families of
six of the children killed or injured by Hamilton issued an impassioned
plea for the gun lobby to be ignored over the introduction of a
virtual ban on the private ownership of firearms.
Sometimes struggling to hold
their composure, the families said their children had paid the ultimate
price for people being licensed to hold guns.
Pamela Ross, the mother of
Joanna, five, who was killed in the massacre, read a prepared statement
which said: "Many people have said we have shown extraordinary
courage and dignity and have asked how we have begun to cope.
"For us, the simple
answer is that we are only beginning to learn to live with the reality
of what has devastated our lives. Each day we live with the
loss we have suffered, and nothing in future will ever allow us
to feel that our lives are complete."
"There will never be
a point at which we can say we are coping and everything is fine
again, because it never will be. We will never get over it,
and we just need the strength to live with it for the rest of our
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