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BBC Scotland's Forbes McFall
"The chief inspector of constabulary was asked to investigate"
 real 28k

Monday, 7 February, 2000, 18:58 GMT
Inquiry into fingerprint evidence

Fingerprinting Ms McKie said the fingerprint experts were wrong

The Scottish Criminal Records Office has agreed to an inquiry into fingerprint evidence used in a trial in which a former police officer was cleared of perjury.

The executive committee of the SCRO has asked Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, William Taylor, to investigate evidence used against former policewoman Shirley McKie.

I feel there are so many people backing my position now
Shirley McKie
A BBC Scotland Frontline investigation into the case of the former policewoman - whose thumb print was alleged to have been found at a murder scene - revealed independent experts agreed a mistake had been made.

Fourteen fingerprint specialists from Lothian and Borders Police and Scotland's police chiefs added their weight to calls for an inquiry.

William Robertson, ACPOS president and chairman of the SCRO committee, said growing concern over the officer's case prompted the decision to carry out "an independent assessment of the fingerprint evidence".

Fingerprint The print was found at a murder scene
He said: "This decision follows an earlier meeting of the Council of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland where Chief Constables unanimously decided to recommend this action.

"Following the considerable speculation in the media about the circumstances regarding the fingerprint evidence in this case, members are anxious to ensure the integrity of fingerprint evidence to the courts in the future and, particularly, they wish to affirm their confidence in the Scottish Criminal Record Office and its expert staff.

"The Director of the Scottish Criminal Record Office, Chief Superintendent Harry Bell, is aware of this decision and has welcomed it," said Mr Robertson, who is chief constable of Northern Constabulary.

As a detective, Ms McKie was accused of leaving her print at a murder scene in 1997, but it has since been alleged experts working for Strathclyde Police wrongly identified it.

Not guilty

Four experts from the Scottish Criminal Records Office in Glasgow said the print belonged to her.

Ms McKie has always maintained she was never inside the house and last year she was found not guilty of perjury at the High Court in Glasgow.

However, the head of the SCRO said the fingerprint identification was sound.

A BBC investigation backed the trial verdict after five experts suggested Ms McKie's print did not match the SCRO evidence.

Police badge Police chiefs expressed doubts
The Lothian and Borders experts wrote to Justice Minister Jim Wallace and the Lord Advocate Lord Hardie to demand an inquiry.

Their letter said at best the "apparent misidentification was a display of gross incompetence by not one, but several experts within the SCRO".

It also said that at worst it bore all the hallmarks of a "conspiracy unparalleled in the history of fingerprints".

The letter added that if the SCRO maintained its position "fingerprint evidence could be challenged and discredited at every opportunity".

'A lot of pressure'

The letter gave Ms McKie, who has already demanded an inquiry, a boost.

She said: "First of all I would like to commend the fingerprint experts from Lothian and Borders Police.

"There has been a lot of pressure put on people who are standing out against this and it has taken a lot of strength to do what they've done.

"I feel there are so many people backing my position now in this and that this is another step closer to getting the powers that be to do something about this."

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See also:
17 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Frontline Scotland
18 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Finger of suspicion: transcript
18 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Fingerprint procedure review call

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