Inquiry told Hamilton 'slipped through net'

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Midway through the Dunblane inquiry, Lord Cullen was told starkly by a senior police officer that "someone got through the system". After noting that Thomas Hamilton had been investigated by police six times over 15 years with "no action" taken, Lord Cullen may conclude that the system itself needs overhaul.

Since 29 May, the inquiry has spent a week for each minute that Hamilton spent inside Dunblane Primary School, when he slaughtered 16 schoolchildren and their teacher. The Cullen report - expected to be delivered in September - will make recommendations on the control of firearms, schools' security and the vetting of adults who work with schoolchildren.

This week's attack on a Wolverhampton infants school will have given Lord Cullen's report added significance.

The terms "no evidence" and "no action" have been repeated constantly during the Dunblane inquiry. The first policeman to investigate Thomas Hamilton followed complaints in the late 1970s made by parents whose children had attended a boys' club in Stirling. Detective Sergeant James Kindness thought Hamilton had tried to subvert parental authority by showering gifts on favoured boys. But he found no evidence. No action was taken.

Later Mr Kindness told the inquiry he could not recall his own report to the Criminal Intelligence Office in November 1981, which noted that Hamilton was a suspected homosexual and prone to influence boys against their parents. The report was never acted upon.

In 1988, Hamilton was the subject of four separate police investigations. Strathclyde Police acted on a complaint over the way he ran summer camps on an island on Loch Lomond. Police thought they had enough evidence to charge Hamilton with assault, after he spanked a child with a table tennis bat. But no action was taken.

Hamilton was investigated again some months later, after he photographed two children holding revolvers and a semi- automatic machine gun. But the parents made no complaint and no action was taken.

Two years later Hamilton once more came to police attention over his latest camps. Detective Sergeant Paul Hughes, now a chief inspector, submitted a report to the Proc- urator Fiscal's office detailing 10 charges he believed could be brought. He also recommended that Hamilton should, as a minimum precaution, be prevented from having his firearms licence renewed. However, the police superintendent who renewed Hamilton's gun licence in 1989 and 1992 knew of no police investigations.

In his summing up, Colin Campbell, QC, said: "No one in Central Scotland Police ever applied their minds to Hamilton's fitness to own guns."