[Ed ~ After discussions with the Lord Advocate, this memo from the Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Forsyth MP was sent to the Prime Minister, John Major, recommending the "right judge" for the Dunblane Inquiry whitewash - within a day of the massacre, before the bodies of the victims barely had a chance to grow cold.  There was also to be a sustained political interference in this restricted "independent" public inquiry. With credit to Tom Minogue for the following information.   My own Links and interventions added.]

14 March 1996

Prime Minister


When we discussed this incident last night I undertook to let you have written advice preparatory to the discussion which the Lord Advocate and I are to have with you shortly before Cabinet this morning.

The Lord Advocate and I have carefully considered how best the incident should be examined and conclusions reached.  [Ed ~ How can they have carefully considered how best the conclusions should be reached before the inquiry was even initiated?   What was the point of conducting an inquiry if it is concluded before it begins?]  Under the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1967, a fatal accident inquiry (the Scottish equivalent of an inquest) must be held.  However, the Lord Advocate and I believe that an inquiry under this legislation will not meet public concerns about this tragic incident.  The legislation requires the inquiry be held out by the local Sheriff, or Sheriff Principal, and while it is possible that the inquiry might look at wider aspects of the incident, the Sheriff is not required to make any recommendations.  Against the background of the very considerable public concern about the character and behaviour of the gunman in this case, we consider that a fatal accident inquiry would not be seen adequately to address the major issues.  We therefore beleve that it is both desirable and necessary that I should set up an inquiry to be taken by a Senator of the College of Justice, ie a member of the senior judiciary in Scotland.  I envisage that the inquiry would have a simple remit, along the lines of a requirement to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the deaths which occurred at Dunblane Primary School on 13 March, and to make recommendations.

The Lord Advocate and I consider that the Judge concerned may find it necessary to address questions relating to the way in which firearms legislation is applied in practice; about security of school premises, and about the supervision of voluntary youth workers.  I think that we have to allow these matters to be exposed to security in public, and I have confidence that, providing the right Judge is selected, we need not fear any over-reaction on his part.

Following formal consultation on a contingent basis, with the Lord President of the Court of Session LINK, the Judge which we have in mind is Lord   [Cullen ~ ed.]. LINK

14 March 1996

Forsyth to Major 14-3-96 National Archives Reference: SOE14/347

- ENDS -

In his website, with reference to the above, Tom Minogue asks:

What exactly does the “right judge” mean?

  • Lord Cullen was certainly the right judge for the Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of Scotland LINK who were cleared of having had Thomas Hamilton as a member when Lord Cullen said he was “satisfied he was not a member of the masons”.  This absolution was not on the evidence of Grand Lodge, who simply had their Grand Secretary scan the record books of 3 of the 660 lodges in Scotland alone and another 500 abroad that are under their charge. LINK  No, Lord Cullen instead preferred the evidence of a Masonic lollipop man, Comrie Deuchars who didn’t socialise with “Tom” LINK , as well as the letters of Thomas Hamilton that we, the public can’t see.
  • But he wasn’t the right judge for William Burns LINK, Chris Mullin MP, Dennis Skinner MP, and a host of others who asked for and expected the inquiry to ascertain the Masonic status of those giving evidence and thoroughly investigate the possibility that Masonic influence (not a Masonic conspiracy) allowed Thomas Hamilton to lead a privileged life free from the normal penalties of our justice system.
  • Lord Cullen was certainly the right judge for Central Scotland Police as he allowed them to investigate their own shortcomings in dealings with their informant Thomas Hamilton and he didn’t trouble the Chief Constable to attend the inquiry to have his evidence tested.
  • But he wasn’t the right judge for Alex Salmond who echoed the public view in wanting an outside force to thoroughly investigate all aspects of Thomas Hamilton’s charmed life.
  • Lord Cullen was certainly the right judge for Her Majesty’s Commissioners charged with the duty of care for pupils at Queen Victoria School, Dunblane LINK. None more so than the man who gave Lord Cullen his supper and guidance, the most senior HMC, Scottish Secretary, Michael Forsyth.   No doubt other recent Secretaries of State Ian Lang and Malcolm Rifkind would have been relieved that they didn’t have to answer awkward questions about Thomas Hamilton at QVS. Likewise Lord Ross, who was Lord Cullen’s immediate superior in the judiciary. LINK
  • But he wasn’t the right judge for Glenn Harrison, the ex-housemaster there and others who wanted Thomas Hamilton’s presence and influence at Queen Victoria School investigated i.e.: his unfettered access to the cadet force military shooting range, the school grounds for boy’s camps as well as his influence in fixing appointments of staff at summer schools.
  • Lord Cullen was certainly the right judge for Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, Michael Forsyth MP LINK, Scottish Secretary; Lord Hope the Lord President LINK, and Prime Minister John Major, who sought to limit the extent of the public inquiry by having the “right judge” who would not overreact. LINK
  • But he wasn’t the right judge for the general public who expected an inquiry that was truly independent and free from any political or other external influences, a judge who would take the inquiry wherever the evidence led it without deference, fear or favour.
  • Lord Cullen was certainly the right judge for those who like secrecy with his extra-statutory 100-year closure order for all documents relating to the public inquiry. This order, which, after much public disquiet, was relaxed when some papers were released in part, but in such a highly redacted format as to make them illegible.
  • But he wasn’t the right judge for those of us [who] value transparency and had campaigned long and hard to have the 100-year closure overturned so as to be able to properly examine, in full, all of the evidence that led to the Cullen Report.
Three Stooges
Copyright © 2016 William Burns. All rights reserved.
Beware Authority
Dunblane Whitewash
Dunblane City Sign
Scotland Map


Dunblane Public Inquiry
Dunblane Massacre
Read the full list in the Dunblane Whitewash catalogue. LINK
Dunblane Angels
St Blane's Church Dunblane
The stained glass window in St Blane's Church, Dunblane, which commemorates the victims of the 1996 massacre.
List of the victims of the Dunblane massacre
Victoria Clydesdale
Mhairi MacBeath
Charlotte Dunn
Melissa Currie
Emma Crozier
Kevin Hassell
Ross Irvine
David Kerr
Gwen Hodson/Mayor - schoolteacher
John Petrie
Hanna Scott
Joanna Ross
Sophie North
Emily Morton
Maegan Turner
Brett McKinnon
Abigail McLennan
We know who killed the above victims, but, although we may not care, we do not know for sure who killed Thomas Hamilton, and why that person was carrying a revolver at the time!
Why did Lord Cullen try to bury William Burns' letters to him for 100 years? LINK