‘Armed police would not stop Dunblane’ says father

THE move to routinely arm the police has come under attack from the father of a victim of the Dunblane tragedy.
Mick North, whose daughter Sophie was killed in the Dunblane tragedy. Picture: PAMick North, whose daughter Sophie was killed in the Dunblane tragedy. Picture: PA
Mick North, whose daughter Sophie was killed in the Dunblane tragedy. Picture: PA

Dr Mick North, whose daughter five-year-old Sophie was killed when Thomas Hamilton went on the rampage, said Police Scotland chief Sir Stephen House was “wrong” for suggesting armed police could have helped prevent incidents like the 1996 massacre.

He has hit out at Police Scotland’s Chief Constable Sir Stephen House for citing the tragedy as one of the key reasons he’s routinely sending armed officers out on to the streets.

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There has been widespread condemnation of the force’s secret policy change that could see a huge rise in the number of police with guns.

The Chief Constable has armed almost 300 officers with Glock 17 semi-automatic pistols, citing Dunblane as a key example of how nowhere in Scotland is immune to violence.

The police chief has also argued that providing on-the-beat police officers with guns would reduce the time it took for armed response to arrive at major incidents.

But Dr North believes the policy would not have halted the 1996 mass murder that claimed the life of his daughter and classmates and has labelled the step deeply concerning.

In addition to describing the step “retrograde”, Dr North has also questioned what difference gun-toting police would have made to an incident that was over more than ten minutes before officers arrived. He’s now calling for a re-think on the controversial policy.

Dr North said: “I can’t see how any armed police would have stopped Dunblane – not at all. We know that it took 15 minutes until any police officer arrived at the school when the incident was all over in three minutes. I can’t help but disagree with his decision.”

The former Stirling University lecturer lost Sophie, his only child, when Thomas Hamilton killed 16 schoolchildren and a teacher at Dunblane Primary on 13 March, 1996.

Sophie was killed alongside 14 of her primary one classmates in a three-minute rampage in the school gym.

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Class teacher Gwen Mayor was also shot dead, before loner Hamilton finally turned the gun on himself.

At a meeting of Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Association on 25 June, Sir Stephen was forced to defend his decision to secretly arm officers.

He illustrated both Dunblane and the 2010 Cumbria shootings as examples as why officers shouldn’t have to spend “an extra 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes” arming themselves, and should already be equipped with a firearm.

However, Dr North believes neither atrocity would have been prevented by having police armed with guns.

He added: “If there is a case for doing what he has done, he needs to cite other examples where armed officers definitely would have prevented an incident. Dunblane is just not relevant.”

Assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins of Police Scotland said: “We need to have the capability to respond to situations which arise that need a specialist response.

“Those situations can and do occur in cities, towns and rural communities.”