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CULLEN - SCHOOL SECURITY AND VETTING ADULTS WITH CHILDREN

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Extracts from a statement made to the House of Commons this afternoon by Michael Forsyth, secretary of state for Sc...
Extracts from a statement made to the House of Commons this afternoon by Michael Forsyth, secretary of state for Scotland.

'I can tell the House that we are going to accept all Lord Cullen's recommendations and in some respects intend to go further. Many of the recommendations relate to firearms legislation for which my rt hon and learned Friend the home secretary has lead policy responsibility. He will be making a statement about that immediately after me.

'Lord Cullen's Report describes in detail the tragic events of Wednesday 13 March. The gunman, Thomas Hamilton, entered Dunblane Primary School shortly after 9.30 am and made his way to the gymnasium armed with two 9mm Browning self-loading pistols and two .357 Smith and Wesson revolvers, together with 743 rounds of ammunition - all of which he lawfully held, and which he legally kept at home together with more than 1,000 further rounds of ammunition.

'Within 3 or 4 minutes, he fired 105 rounds with the 9mm Browning, resulting in the deaths of Mrs Gwen Mayor and 16 children, injuring a further 3 teaching staff and 14 children. He then used the .357 Smith and Wesson to take his own life.

'Of the headteacher and his staff, the report says that they 'did everything that they possibly could to assist, far beyond what might reasonably have been expected of them'. Lord Cullen also commends the general quality of the work of Central Scotland Police and in particular the individual officers involved. He records the gratitude of the relatives and the school authorities for the help, support and professionalism of the Force. From my own experience that day, and on the days that followed, I reinforce those tributes.

'He is however critical of the delay in providing information to victims' families. These criticisms were accepted by the Chief Constable of Central Scotland Police, who himself made a written submission to Lord Cullen, identifying procedural inadequacies and suggesting improvements, which Lord Cullen has endorsed. The government will ensure that these issues are discussed with all police forces throughout the United Kingdom.

'An ambulance and a team of doctors and nurses from the local Health Centre were quickly on the scene. The health service's major incident plan was implemented and a number of expert teams from Stirling and Falkirk Royal Infirmaries went to the school. The Report highlights the magnificent way in which all the health teams responded. The victims were taken to Stirling Royal Infirmary and the Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary. The most seriously injured were later transferred to Yorkhill Children's Hospital. The professionalism of all concerned undoubtedly saved lives.

'The report sets out the facts about Thomas Hamilton and his background, and Lord Cullen has considered, with expert advice from a psychologist and psychiatrist, what may have prompted Hamilton's atrocious act. He concludes that 'the violence which he used would not have been predictable'. Members of the House will want to study the Report for themselves, but I conclude that this was an act of calculated wickedness.

'Lord Cullen's Report considers in great detail the granting and the renewal of the firearms licences which Thomas Hamilton had held since 1977. He points to the weaknesses in the system used by Central Scotland Police for the carrying out of enquiries and the making of decisions about firearms applications.

'In particular, the report is critical of the former Deputy Chief Constable of Central Scotland Police, Mr Douglas McMurdo, who was appointed earlier this year to HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland. I thought it right, Madam Speaker, that Mr McMurdo should have sight of the relevant paragraphs in the report and he has today offered his resignation, which I have accepted. He has informed The Scottish Office that he also intends to resign from Central Scotland Police. The House will respect his decision.

'The report makes two recommendations, which I have accepted, concerning improvements in school security. I will be introducing a specific grant to assist authorities to improve the security of school pupils and staff. All authorities will benefit, and I intend that councils should have as much discretion as possible on the measures to be taken. I would expect such measures to be in line with the action plans which Lord Cullen encourages individual schools to draw up.

They will add to the measures which the government announced in May in response to the recommendations of the Working Group on School Security.

'Two further recommendations which I have accepted concern the vetting and supervising of adults working with children and young people. One concerns the development of a Scottish Vocational Qualification in respect of work with children, including the organisation of clubs and child development and protection. The other involves accreditation by a national body, of clubs and groups involved with young people. This body would ensure that there are adequate checks on the suitability of leaders and workers with unsupervised access to children and young people.

'I also intend to introduce legislation at the earliest opportunity to allow all youth organisations access to criminal records and to certain other information which does not relate directly to criminal convictions and is held by the police. I appreciate that this may cause concern in some quarters but I believe that the safety and protection of our children must come first.

'The whole country has been struck by the courage and dignity with which the community of Dunblane has worked together in the aftermath of this terrible atrocity. They now look to this House for rapid and united action.'

-- Lord Cullen's Report The Public Inquiry into the Shootings at Dunblane Primary School on 13 March 1996 - The Hon Lord Cullen is available from HMSO, priced £20.00 (Command Paper 3386, ISBN 0 10 1338627) and is also available on the Internet (location: http://www. the-stationeryoffice.co. uk/document/scottish/dunblane/dunblane.htm).

The Government's Response The Public Inquiry into the Shootings at Dunblane Primary School on 13 March 1996 - The Government Response is available from HMSO, priced £3.00

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