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Panorama Sunday, 19 May, 2002, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Your comments on Fingerprints on Trial
Your comments on Fingerprints on Trial.

Thank you for all your e-mails. We have now stopped publishing them on the website. Due to the huge number received we have not been able to publish all of them, but please do not be discouraged from sending your comments in the future.

It's been a few days now since I watched your programme on Alan. I feel so angry at the travesty of his case. This is the first time I have even visited the BBC website, I wanted to know the latest on his situation. I keep thinking of the near obvious injustice and am incensed at the authorities face saving stubbornness when refusing to clear his name. I hope Panorama has changed this.
G Jones

1. The standard for proving fingerprints in court has been 16 points for almost the entire history of their being used. In a recent case (1998 - easy to find) the CA said that 10 points was enough and as low as 8 could be justified depending on the circs. 2. The National computerised fingerprint database being compiled at the moment is based on 10 points. 3. International experts say that it is now possible to use computer techniques to do searches based on perfect matching which can then be checked by human experts. 4. A chief constable on a BBC crime programme (hosted by Anne Robinson in late 2000 I think) has said that perfect matching should be used. This info is (or should be) known to every criminal lawyer. I would have thought an erosion into the standard of fingerprint evidence would be of some relevance to your story and been investigated unless that wasn't what your story was actually about. Comments on Prosecution Counsel's comments: 1. 27 points is pretty good, in fact surprising these days, but I suppose they had to nail the print more than usual in this case, but not perfect matching. 2. If there was no "background" on the lift with the householder's print then wasn't it more likely not to be a lift from the jewellery box (given other expert evidence). Still may be the vase - but that's still a SOCO cock-up. 3. Was there an attempt at chemical analysis of the back of the lifts (there may not have been any or enough) to see if it matched varnish or paint to identify where it came, or didn't come, from?
Satish Chandra Sekar

I write to rebuff, point by point, the arguments put forward in the letter from the prosecuting counsel in the McNamara case. The remarks about the points of identification raised by Mr Stuttard, are simply irrelevant. Nobody contests the fact that the print in question came from Mr McNamara. Nobody, as far as I am aware, is suggesting that Mr Birchall "fit-up" Mr McNamara. The suggestions made in the Panorama programme were that: (i) fingerprint experts are human and therefore fallible; (ii) some fingerprint experts are reluctant to admit their fallibility. If Mr Birchall did take the fingerprint in question from the jewellery box, then it ought to be possible for him, or someone else, to produce a similar print (with all the appearance of having come from a smooth curved surface) from the top surface of the jewellery box. If Mr Birchall cannot produce such a print, than this throws reasonable doubt on his claims about the origin of the fingerprint. There were, according to the Panorama programme, four vases in the house. Had they all been "in the householder's possession for many years"? The presence of the householder's print strongly suggests that object from which the lift was obtained came from the house. The presence of this print does not, however, make this explanation conclusive or an alternative explanation "impossible". Mr McNamara and the householder could have both touched an object outside the house. Even if the print did come from the house (which, I concede, in all probability it did) it cannot safely did concluded that "The rest follows". All that follows is that Mr McNamara must, at some stage, have touched one of the objects that Mr Birchall later tested in the house. There are further questions that have not, to my knowledge, been raised so far. As Mr Stuttard points out, we have a 100 years' experience of fingerprint evidence. Most people planning a burglary take the simple precaution of wearing gloves. If Mr McNamara was stupid enough to burgle the house in question without gloves, why are there no other prints from him? If he did wear gloves, why did he take them off to touch the top of the jewellery case? I have no way of knowing for certain whether or not Mr McNamara is guilty, but the evidence shown in the Panorama programme raises reasonable doubts. Mr Stuttard's letter does absolutely nothing to assuage those doubts.
Dr Michael A Ward

Thank you Panorama for initiating a meaningful public debate about fingerprinting. It is important that all sides of the debate contribute and independent expert Malcolm Graham¿s contribution highlights some serious issues. He has identified what I call the "Elephant is a Rhinoceros School of Fingerprinting". While a small and select group these so called "independent experts" are extremely dangerous in that they can help commit innocent persons to jail and destroy any hopes they might have had of finding justice. I suggest that some independent experts in the UK are resting on past glories, real or imagined, and have failed to keep up to date with current developments and training. Even if they are technically competent their previous service often aligns them philosophically and culturally to the Police. They are consciously or unconsciously motivated by personal conviction about what is right and wrong. Scientific facts are bent to their convictions. They feel safe and secure in a culture of arrogance, complacency and infallibility that threatens every suspect seeking a defence. They also threaten the majority of experts whose honesty and integrity is not in doubt. For those interested in further information on the current fingerprinting debate can I recommend the websites and Here you will see the names of the 170 world experts - including heads of national bureaux - who recently sent a statement to the Scottish Justice Minister pointing out that the Scottish Criminal Records Office was wrong in identifying my daughter's print. They comment: "There are so many basic differences of a primary nature both in detail, location and relations between the two compared prints that we are astonished that any qualified expert or even an unqualified trainee could deliver a conclusion of identity." The "Elephant is a Rhinoceros School" is indeed alive and well.
Iain McKie

I am interested in Mr Graham¿s opinion. I have examined the property and the actual marks in the McKie and the Asbury case. I am astonished that a so-called expert can make such a judgement. I am a qualified forensic scene examiner, forensic ridgeologist and a fingerprint expert. I also taught all these disciplines. I actually showed the two marks in question to many students, some with only 6 weeks training, and they all found the marks not identical. The mark identified for Shirley McKie (her left thumb identified by SCRO) was not made from any digit on the left hand. If Mr Graham cared to look at the scene examiner¿s documentation, he would have found that Shirley McKie would have had to be a contortionist to leave her left thumb in that position. As for the other mark on the biscuit tin, it¿s not even close. Most of the lines in the charting are wrong and point to nothing. I assure you Mr Graham, that there are now over 160 experts from all over the world. Their qualifications vary, but at least they all come to the same conclusions. It's no good saying they have not seen the originals, because Pat Wertheim and myself have shown copies of the originals to experts all over the world. I have given evidence to Her Majesty's Inspectorate in Edinburgh and the official investigation team. These four experts should be made accountable. SCRO must apologise. There has been a conspiracy, and I know that you do not have all the facts. There are no opinions about these marks, they are not identical and that is a fact.
Allan Bayle

Very good programme but I think you have missed the point. The fingerprint is McNamara's, therefore the fingerprint expert has done his/her job and identified the crime mark. What you should be reporting on is the other evidence that was said at the trail. I presume that the owner give evidence. Did they watch the scenes of crime officer lift the mark? How long had they owned the jewellery box and where was it bought from? Had it been cleaned since it was bought, therefore the print would have cleaned away? Did they show the soco which vase was touched as I wouldn't want powder to be put on items that hadn't be handled by the thief. Also regarding all the comments saying that the police should have more evidence than a fingerprint to get a conviction, a fingerprint is unique and conclusive whereas DNA is not (identical twins have the same DNA). The killer of Sarah Payne was convicted by a single fibre. Until we are in possession of the full facts of the trail, which the appeal judges would have been, we have to believe that the jury has got it right. Remember, jails are full of guilty men pleading their innocence.

Arthur, you're right. The conviction of an innocent man is the worst of all miscarriages of justice. Your efforts in trying to prevent these in your professional life are applauded. The fact remains though that for many years now the British legal system is seen by those it seeks to represent at best as second rate and at worst an out-dated farce. All too often the police and criminal justice system are exposed for serious short comings. The Birmingham six, the Guildford four, the corruption of the West Midlands Force throughout the 1970's. These are the high profile examples of what has gone wrong. To many, the possibility of such cases happening again will come as no surprise at all. The fact is Arthur most prosecuting counsel not see it as their purpose to seek the truth. It's not their job. They represent the CPS to secure a conviction on the evidence they have, or don't have. That's why Juries return not guilty verdicts.
In the Alan McNamara case no one is disputing that the print is not his, just how it got there and by what possible means this could have happened. In defence of the program Panorama did this very well and had very credible experts to substantiate their line of enquiry. Never mind Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson would have picked this one up! Moreover, the program exposed other doubts in this case that were not put before the Jury. No one can doubt some criminals will lie when faced with the consequences of their deeds. Neither can there be any doubt that in some cases police and expert witnesses have lied. Alarmingly, in some cases expert witnesses called by the crown have subsequently been shown to be incompetent and retired on a full pension while others have lost their liberty.
The point is Arthur the system fails from time to time and in a spectacular way. We deserve better. Start with an inquisitorial system and the extraction of Freemasons from the police and criminal justice system. Then and only then will confidence return.
Colin Wales

I am sorry to read most of the comments on this page. Why does everyone keep having a go at our police? If your house was burgled, who would you call? If somebody attacked or threatened you, who would you phone? If a member of you family was murdered, who would find the culprit? Who was it that sorted out the last train crash, carried away the bodies and bits of body, and who was it who looked after the relatives. That's right, it was the police. Come on, give them a break!!!
Jackie Radford

As Shirley McKie's father I must declare a vested interest in your excellent programme.
Having fought the system I was once part of for five years I can attest to the massive problems faced by the individual seeking justice in our society.
Panorama not only eloquently told the story of another family brought close to despair but raised profound issues for justice in the UK.
Aside from the accountability of experts there are serious problems with their procedures, competency and testing.
While I do not question the honesty or integrity of the majority of experts an organisational culture of arrogance and infallibility -where to admit a mistake has become culturally impossible, a greater sin than closing ranks and hiding the truth - holds sway.
Lawyers and judges are largely ignorant of forensics and place implicit trust in the expert.
As Walter Bagehot said over 100 years ago "If you begin to poke about it, you cannot reverence it. Its mystery is its life. We must not let in daylight upon magic".
This aura of magic, this myth of infallibility, has been bestowed upon the forensic sciences.
Two suggestions:
A public enquiry into the competency, testing and training of our forensic experts.
A debate - the experts and our political representatives have been very quiet so far - on the efficacy of their work and their accountability.
Thanks to the much maligned media and programmes like Panorama the individual is not silenced and the system unchallenged.
To the programme's critics: Take care, tomorrow it might be you!
Iain McKie

Justice is infallible. It always punishes the guilty and never ever locks up the innocents. It is incorruptible, efficient and fair. We have judges, sheriffs, Advocate Deputes, procurators fiscal, police, forensic experts and the honourable, unselfish solicitors who represent the charged in a court of law all acting in the "public interest".
If you believe that tirade you should stick your head down the toilet and ask someone to flush your brains away.
So called "public interest" is the reason that Mr McNamara has been jailed. Evidence is incidental because the judicial system is worried and deeply concerned that his situation will spark a catalogue of investigations into other cases conducted by the police, forensic experts and ultimately the judges who hand out the punishments. Put a rotten apple in a basket of a dozen and it will soon contaminate the rest.
From the beginning to the end, from the bottom to the top there are no independent, democratic checks as to the efficiency of the judicial system. One innocent individual is expendable if s/he rocks the foundation. If the legal system admits an error, especially in the McKie case, that some innocents will be released then many guilty will also flee their deserved imprisonments. And financial compensations, the loss of public confidence, the major factor, will crush the system.
Take Scots Law. The Audit Commission and the Public Accounts Committee were always, easily blinkered and hooded when they investigated the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. With the re-introduction of a Scottish Parliament I was hoping the Justice 2 Committee would scrutinise the Scots legal system in depth. For years I have been trying to gain access to the "Procurator Fiscal Service Book of Regulations" but, always, I have been told that this will not be released in the public domain. The Committee have agreed with this assessment from the Crown Office even though they have not read the document?
I have written evidence from very senior sources that this document has been released to certain members of the public and cannot understand why democratic representatives are denied access. The conclusion is obvious: the Committee are not really investigating, scrutinising or interested in their brief, it is an exercise rather than an investigation.
So-called democracy and justice no longer has my confidence. When accountability and transparency cease to exist I no longer participate.
Eddie mcColm

The Shirley McKie case in Scotland is even more disturbing than that which your viewers comment on since, in that case there is no other evidence on which to convict other than the false identification of one fingerprint.
J Crawford

Shelley Jofre and her crew trot out yet another heavily biased programme more akin to light entertainment than serious journalism. As a resident of the fair city of Manchester I well remember that the Manchester Evening News carried stories regarding the erroneous identification of Stephen Wallace and another. In both cases GMP readily admitted the mistakes and apologised to those involved. Following such mistakes it is not unusual for an organisation to review procedures and for heads to roll. This I assume will have been the case in Manchester's Fingerprint Department. As one who has been the victim of the BBC in terms of having an interview I did for them heavily edited and in the process the points I was trying to get across were hugely misrepresented, it is of no surprise to me that the Head of the Manchester Fingerprint Unit refused to give an interview. The two mistaken identifications were quite simply that. Extremely unfortunate mistakes. What was not reinforced by the Panorama team was that i) the Alan McNamara case is in no way linked to the McKie case, ii) the Alan McNamara case is in no way linked to the two erroneous identifications (Wallace & another) and iii) the Alan McNamara case does not concern an impression which has been wrongly identified. Even the defence experts Alan Bayle and Pat Wertheim are in agreement with the identification. The linking of unrelated cases by Ms Jofre is unprofessional , immoral and dangerous. Her failure to mention that the dispute in the McNamara case centres around where the impression was lifted from rather than its undisputed donor illustrates that she is either very naive about this subject matter or has a genuine interest in seeing a miscarriage of justice take place. That said, British justice tends to take place in front of a Judge and Jury where all the available evidence is at hand. Witnesses are cross examined and if necessary re-examined.
Ivan Joy

The mention of Freemasons fascinates me for, as the Officer in Charge of the Portsmouth City Police for many years, the two previous heads were leading Freemasons. Additionally, at least three Detective Constables were Masons - and there were only 5 or 6 of us in the Branch! Makes me think, in hindsight. But one thing is certain and it is that I ALWAYS ensured that all fingerprints were photographs and NEVER lifted - even on drainpipes 4 floors up and on window sills. Marks on smaller items resulted in the item itself - as with that in this case - being brought to Police HQ and secured in locked cabinets - one for each Fingerprint Officer - until the mark was eliminated or identified. They were NEVER lifted for, apart from anything else, they can be mixed up when one Duty Officer is visiting several crimes during the morning, going from one to another. He may put his "lifts" in a pocket of a case but what happens when they get mixed up, as easily can happen?
Richard Ostler
Bognor Regis

I watched your programme with interest. I cannot comment on the English case, other than to say that 2½ years seems a very long sentence for a person with only one previous minor conviction who committed only one case of burglary. If that is the case he seems to have been rather harshly treated.
I am not particularly impressed by the evidence of Mr Wertheim or Mr Bayliss.
I do want to comment on the case of Shirley McKie. In your programme you stated that everyone who examined the fingerprint evidence against Ms McKie came to the conclusion that the four Scottish Criminal Records officers were wrong. That is not true.
I examined the evidence for the defence in the charge of murder against David Asbury. Ms McKie was a detective in this investigation. Scottish Criminal Records officers, in the course of checking fingerprints for elimination purposes in the murdered woman¿s house, identified one of the fingerprints as Ms McKie¿s. That had not been an issue at the time I was examining the evidence against David Asbury but as Ms McKie had approached the defence lawyer acting for Asbury and alleged that her colleagues (police officers at Kilmarnock) had ¿planted¿ her fingerprint at the murder scene, the matter became very important. If the police had "planted" her fingerprint at the scene, there was a suggestion that they may also have ¿planted¿ Asbury¿s fingerprints.
My conclusions concerning Ms McKie were that her fingerprint could not have been ¿planted¿ on a door frame in the house. I was also satisfied that it was her fingerprint. I made that clear in my report to Asbury¿s defence lawyer and also gave evidence to that effect at the murder trial.
When Mr McKie asked me to act on behalf of his daughter I made it quite clear to him that I was satisfied his daughter's fingerprint had been found in the house, although if there was any assistance I could give, I would be pleased to help.
Mr McKie does not mention me because his assertion that S.C.R.O. was involved in a conspiracy against his daughter would have no credibility. I did not know any of the fingerprint officers involved. I would also make the point that there are others who agree with the identification of Ms McKie fingerprint.
Mr McKie has produced a list of more than a hundred individuals who have put their names on his website. I do not know who they are or what qualifications they may have, but few if any of them have seem the actual fingerprints. They have probably just seen poor pixelated images on a computer monitor.
Malcolm Graham
near Edinburgh

How re-assuring that Arthur Stuttard, the prosecuting counsel, has commented on the programme, the first person with an interest in the prosecution to do so.
With all due respect to him, though, he has introduced a red-herring about the identity of the finger-prints; the programme made it clear that no-one ever disputed whose fingerprints they were; the question concerned from where they came. Mr McNamara ran a shop. It was by no means "impossible" (to use Mr Stuttard's own term) for the prints of both Mr McNamara and the house owner to have come from an object bought in that shop.
I do not frankly buy his protestations either about prosecuting innocent men, anymore than I buy converse protestations from barristers defending guilty men. Our adversarial system of justice, dependent on theatre, melodrama and the egos of bench and counsel, often fails to deliver justice because its objective is to win the debate, not to discover the truth.
I was obviously not in Court, but it seems to me that there is a lot about this case which does not meet the criterion that the prosecution's burden is to prove beyond reasonable possible doubt. In addition to the question mark surrounding the fingerprints, when I was at Law School (admittedly 30 years ago), several other elements had to be present, the most notable of which was "mens rea". This may inaccurately but conveniently be translated as "motive". There appears to have been no attempt by the police to establish any motive for the burglary by Mr McNamara, who ran a profitable business netting £100,000 per annum. Why would he do something like this? A simple question deserving of a simple answer. There may have been a motive but it was not drawn out in the programme at least.
Furthermore, television companies do not lightly broadcast cases without reasonably thorough investigation - on this occasion, TWICE. The BBC must have been convinced that there had been a miscarriage of justice. Whilst I am not advocating justice by television, nevertheless I would have thought that the BBC's conviction supported by the additional evidence and expert opinion would have given the judge sufficient grounds to re-open the case. The root cause is sadly the public's universal disdain for the police, who have become lazy, incompetent, arrogant and often corrupt. How has this happened, when one remembers the pride with which we were used to hearing American tourists say twenty years ago "I think your policemen are wonderful".
Nicholas Sherman
Sixpenny Handley

Having been closely briefed on the McNamara case from the beginning and having read the judge's summing up I find the conclusions of the prosecutor Mr Stuttard truly stunning.
I am left wondering how much knowledge he and the trial Judge had about fingerprints and fingerprinting.
I believe that their lack of knowledge might have fatally flawed their presentations to the lay person jury and Mr McNamara¿s chance of a fair trial.
The case was not about whether the print was Mr McNamara's - it clearly was - but about where did the print come from?
With absolutely no motive for the crime and not another shred of evidence against Mr McNamara the trial revolved around a number of world renowned experts stating that Mr McNamara's fingerprint was not lifted from the jewellery box and Manchester experts saying they were.
As this cast reasonable doubt on the source of the print and the print was the only evidence the inevitable conclusion must be that the case was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.
What Panorama has done in the face of opposition from Manchester Police, the prosecution system and a number of UK experts is to adduce even more evidence that not only did the print not come from the box but that it probably came from a rounded item like a vase. Mr McNamara sold and had legitimate access to such vases as a shopkeeper.
The programme has also revealed that the Manchester experts are claiming techniques for lifting prints that do not exist or at least have never been published or displayed in a public forum.
Finally let's look at Mr Stuttard's incorrect claim that the sole issue was one of credibility.
Is he really trying to say that Pat Wertheim, the world renowned expert who trains experts all over the world including the FBI, Mr Allan Bayle ex Scotland Yard and the other experts on the programme are not credible witnesses?
Had it only been a matter of credibility Mr Stuttard, Alan McNamara would have been acquitted.
Unfortunately it was about the competency and testing of some UK experts, their failure to adhere to strict recording procedures and the lack of knowledge about fingerprinting of some of our lawyers and those in the judiciary.
If the programme was unjust and biased then look to your own conscience Mr Stuttard not to Panorama who can only speak to those who will speak to them.
Iain McKie

I waited for more evidence other than the finger print and yes, feel like many that this man is not guilty based on the information supplied in the programme. However this was selective, where was he at the time of this break-in ? Until we have more details we cannot be certain of his innocence. If all the evidence is down to this one print then it is suspect. Judges are dealing with hundreds of such cases each year so I expect they become detached from reality.
Martin Mulligan

It's a disgrace
Ian Fitz

Having just seen the programme, I am astonished at its findings on two counts. I cannot believe that a person can be tried, convicted and sentenced on one single piece of questionable evidence without any corroboration. Secondly, I am amazed that a judge is allowed to refuse an appeal when the one and only piece of evidence supporting the conviction is found to be unreliable by other expert witnesses. It appears that the legal system and those that operate it are deemed to be beyond reproach and their judgements are not allowed to be questioned. It is a scandal.
Tony Byers

The main reason why this kind of thing happens is that getting a conviction is the motivation, not getting the truth. Once convicted the prisoner is worth £26,000 a year to the prison service.
H Wheatley LL,B

Whatever happened to the onus for proof being beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal case? How can someone be convicted without any corroborating facts and circumstances linking him to the crime, other than one disputed fingerprint? Or were there other facts that the programme did not show? It looks like a total travesty of justice.
Rob Cohen

What utter rubbish! Emotional blackmail, biased reporting and subversive editing as usual. I expect nothing less from Panorama. If this is the sort of soap opera nonsense that passes for journalism these days then perhaps Ms Jofre could write scripts for EastEnders!!

Where is Alan McNamara's MP, or doesn't he/she want to get involved with the release of a so-called criminal? FREE ALAN MCNAMARA NOW!!!
St Albans

The programme missed several important facts. I was a SOCO for 30 years and the members of staff made an error that many still do throughout the UK.
1. The finger marks were present, however he lifted them both and then as many do, later labelled them. Unfortunately he mixed them up. One was on a round surface, the other flat. I would suggest that the identified one was on a vase or bottle. Did you find out whether any vase from the premises was obtained from the 'suspects' shop ? If the box was dusty, the finger mark would be in dust and not as a sweat mark.
2. Many fingerprint bureaux in the UK do not have enlightened leaderships. In fact they are some of the worst places to work that I ever saw. The Senior management were totally overpowering and put junior staff in impossible situations. The young were never able to criticise or question their seniors. To do so would mean you were a trouble maker.
3. As far as shoe and tool marks are concerned, for many years at least half of the Met had a policy of ignoring such marks. The senior managers denigrated the use, whereby they could link crime scenes and assist in proving / disproving guilt.
4. Alan Bayle was the only expert in ridgeology in the Met, and they drove him out because they could not see the way ahead, when the policy on the identification process changed.
5. The fingerprint system is still infallible, the methodology of the actual procedures is the problem as the human person is the fallible one and this needs to be recognised. Fingerprint managers never apologise for any error, as they automatically feel the system is being criticised.
ex MPS employee

it seems that "trial by TV" may be preferable to trial by a judge.

Tim Robinson
I was shocked and angry after watching this programme. I cannot understand how such an apparent miscarriage of justice could have occurred, or be allowed to continue. Whilst such programmes are inevitably biased one way or another to prove the point the producer is aiming at, it was clear from what I saw that the defendant was not guilty! Where was the motive? Where were the other witnesses? Where was the common sense?
I trust that the BBC will be encouraging this case to be urgently reviewed so that Mr McNamara can get back to his family. I had little faith in the Police, and this blatant show of injustice has done nothing to change my view. In some cases, it seems that "trial by TV" may be preferable to trial by a judge.
Tim Robinson

I was saddened to see earlier this evening your programme concerning Alan McNamara and the convincing information presented concerning the evidence that lead to his conviction. It appeared to me as a layman that there was now incontrovertible evidence from your experts to demonstrate that the original conviction was flawed. Apart from a youthful misdemeanour when he was fined £50 some twenty or so years ago it would appear that this man has lead an industrious life. Without this conviction I assume he would still be free today if the police authority had not retained his earlier records.
The view presented at the end of the programme indicated that there was little else that could be done in order to bring this matter back into the judicial system. Each and every case that is reported in the media goes one further step in reinforcing the considerable doubts I have a concerning the whole issue of law and it maintenance in this country. I fear I am not alone in this view.
Mrs McNamara and her parents in law indicated that to date they had spent around £40K in legal fees. As an average citizen who unfortunately has little faith in the police or the work of the judiciary I feel very aggrieved at the treatment and subsequence sentence given to Mr McNamara and the effects it is having on his family. If he is subsequently declared not guilty at a later date will he ever be able to recoup this expenditure or will he be forced to run the gambit of a private civil case in order to tray and obtain some form of compensation for his wrongful arrest and conviction?
This is the first time I have accessed any BBC pages and have little idea, of what, if anything will happen to this note. If it is considered that as "Joe Public" I can assist in any way to secure this innocents man release I will be pleased to support in any way that I can.
Haydn Punter

Having followed and written about this case from its outset, it is very worrying that the obvious and sensible resolution has still not been achieved. What can one say about a "justice system" that is more interested in "closing ranks" than admitting it might have made a terrible mistake and an apparent lack of concern for the subsequent destruction of a family? Equally disturbing are the comments on this page by the case prosecutor Stuttard, who, although one would hope was an intelligent man, seems to have completely failed to grasp the issues the programme sought to raise
Dave L

The police do not care as long as they have someone locked up for the crime. No matter if you have not done wrong. They will never say sorry. I know - they locked me up last year, put my family in hell, found I had not done what they said I had done, let me out and to this day never said sorry. I will never help them ever again, I will just turn my back on anything I see.
West Midlands

What can the viewers of tonight's Panorama do to help people like Alan who haven't received justice?

I am ashamed to be a part of country which will not hold its hands up when it's been found to be wrong

Vincent Hewlett
This conviction stinks. We have suffered burglary and have had far more evidence, including recovery of the goods from the criminal's car - and the criminal got off.
R Johnson

After seeing this programme I find it totally disgusting that a man like Alan is still in jail, when it is very clear he is innocent. It just goes to show that this government and its police force are just doing what we all know they do: doctoring figures to make it look good. This man is innocent and should be released now. The police force in question should be investigated for " crime fixing". I feel sorry for Alan's family... I am ashamed to be a part of country which will not hold its hands up when it's been found to be wrong, and in this case they are very very wrong...
Vincent Hewlett

Regarding "Fingerprints on Trial", why has not Alan's case been put before the Criminal Cases Review Board?
J Carey

This is an appalling scandal. An innocent man and his family are suffering - eventually the establishment (in this case Manchester Police)will have to answer for it. BUT only if the rest of us keep on and on at them.
Ian Moth
Newport, Isle of Wight

there are other cases of this nature and there should be an official investigation

John Cotteril
Very well presented programme. I would like further information on the McNamara case and I believe that there should be an investigation into the Police conduct of the case. At the very least he should be found innocent and receive an apology from the officers involved. I also think he should receive substantial compensation. As your programme stated there are other cases of this nature and there should be an official investigation.
John Cotterill

If citizens of this country could be treated by the justice system so unfairly what about the foreigners?

It is a travesty of justice that Alan McNamara should have to remain in prison despite significant new expert evidence in his case. How many innocent people will have to suffer before this disgraceful fingerprint verification system changes and the so called experts become accountable for the lives they damage?

I was amazed to watch this programme and realise at the end that he is still behind bars. How are we as British Citizens supposed to have any faith in our Justice system when evidence is available to prove that he is innocent is totally ignored - not even given a chance to present the evidence at an appeal? There should be some system in place to ensure that this is not able to happen now or in the future. I think it's appalling and frightening to see what is happening to him and that could be any one of us in the same position.
Christine Martin

It sounds to me like Freemasons in the justice system are standing up for one another in this case and just trying to extort money from a hard worker.

I am a retire RAF officer, originating from Bolton Lancs., with 39 years' service for the MOD. Like the McNamaras, I have always believed in the fairness of British justice and assumed that it would be impossible for a totally innocent person to be convicted of a serious crime on the basis of a single evidence criterion. I support the police wholeheartedly and my 17-year-old son is on the point of joining the local police cadet force.
G L Margiotta

I am amazed that the judge did not see fit to grant an appeal to Mr McNamara. The evidence appears to me to be overwhelming that he should be freed. I am appalled that such a miscarriage of justice can be made in this day and age when surely fingerprints should be able to be superimposed via computer graphics so that there can be no error.
June Scott

The programme on fingerprints highlights a serious ethical problem about official experts. The Council for Registration of Forensic Practitioners hopes to prevent anyone but registered expert from being allowed to give evidence. Independent experts are concerned about this attempt to control evidence. It may be contrary to section 6 of the human rights act.
Prof, Geoffrey M. Beresford Hartwell
Wallington, Surrey

I was prosecuting counsel in the McNamara Case which featured on Panorama. I am an independent member of the Bar with 34 years experience. I both prosecute and defend. In fact, I probably defend more than I prosecute. The last thing I would want is to see an innocent man punished for an offence which he had not committed. This is the worst of all miscarriages of justice and my professional life has been dedicated to trying to prevent it happening. Your presentation of the McNamara case was, needless to say, one-sided. Essentially the case was not about fingerprints, it was about the integrity of the Scenes of Crime Officer, Mr. Birchall. Everybody (including the Defence experts) was convinced the fingerprint in question was the Defendant's. It had 27 points of identification (more according to Pat Wertheim) whereas then only 16 were needed (and now 8). It was agreed by everybody that it had not been transplanted from elsewhere - the experts would have been able to detect that. Mr. Birchall gave evidence that he had taken 2 lifts from the house - one (which was not the Defendant's) from a vase which had been in the householder's possession for many years, and the other from the jewellery box. He had taken one lift, transferred it to acetate, labelled it, and then taken the other. He did not know the Defendant from Adam and had never met him. The Defendant was only revealed as a possible suspect when a match was found by the computer (and confirmed by all the experts). The fingerprint could only have come from the burgled house. There is no room for any conspiracy theory. Mr. Birchall had no opportunity or motive to "fit up" Alan McNamara. If fingerprint evidence is worth anything, and 100 years of experience have shown us that no two people have the same fingerprint, then Alan McNamara, as the jury found, is unfortunately guilty. While it is for the Prosecution to prove his guilt so that a jury can be sure, there was only his evidence that he had never been in the burgled house. Unfortunately it is not unknown for criminals to tell lies when faced with the consequences of their deeds. As Sherlock Holmes said to Dr. Watson: "First of all eliminate the impossible; whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth". In this case, it was impossible for the fingerprint to have come from anywhere other than the house. The rest follows.
Since the jury's verdict, further examination of the lift has shown that there is also present a fingerprint of the householder, showing conclusively that the fingerprint came from the burgled house. Furthermore, there is no "background noise" on the other lift taken from the house. Hence, there can have been no confusion between the lifts.
Arthur Stuttard

I watched the programme about Alan McNamara and would like to say that I was appalled at the treatment of this man and the psychological impact the whole case has had on his family. It is very frightening to think that the system in which we put so much trust and admiration can be so badly flawed. Something must be done to stop this happening to other innocent people in society.
Saima Alam

What rubbish! These so-called experts are afraid of losing face. This man should be freed immediately and compensated for his suffering. The people responsible should be severely reprimanded and made to pay from their own pockets and not from the public purse.
P J Vince

How many other Alan McNamaras are there in our prisons?

Nothing in your programme surprises me. The police and the justice system have a culture of not wanting ever to admit mistakes. It's just the way it is, I'm afraid. To admit mistakes too often would mean a loss of confidence in the system with those in senior positions having to resign their posts and protected pension rights. And that just wouldn't do, would it? Sorry Alan old boy you're just going to have to do your bird! Oh of course and then there's the whole issue of freemasonry in the police and criminal justice system that was supposed to have been sorted out by now... Hang on I'd better shut up or before there's a knock on the door!
Colin Wales

How many other Alan McNamaras are there in our prisons?

I would like to register my support to Alan McNamara and his family. I am horrified that he has been convicted on such flimsy and obviously controversial evidence and that no appeal has been granted. I can only begin to imagine what his poor family must be going through and I would like to commend all of them for their efforts in keeping his business going. He is lucky to have such supportive people around him and no doubt this is one of the few things which has kept in sane through out this ordeal. Please let me know if there is any petition organised to have Alan's appeal reappraised and where do I go to add my name to it?
Michelle Marshall

Having watched the documentary I feel very angry and saddened by this travesty of justice. Our legal system is full of inadequate old has-beens that are so full of their own importance and so far removed from reality that they use the law as their shield. SHAME ON THEM. This mans life lies in ruins and no-one will give comments. WHY ? This man is INNOCENT and no-one will listen. WHY ? The answer is the system is so old and antiquated and wrapped up in property that stealing money is more serious than rape. That's why. The legal system has raped this family and they should be put on trial for that!
Michael J O'Donnell

This issue regarding evidence of fingerprints and other evidence is simple. The system is oppressive and juries as members of the public are over confident in the system. There are many innocent men in the dock and people think because they are in the dock they must be guilty. It is not always best to believe the police - after all they are building the case against you and want a result.
Edward watt

This program highlights why many people have no confidence in the police service. The recent institutional racism charge, now accepted but unaddressed by the police, stands next to the one of institutional arrogance. Unfortunately it is no surprise that the closed shop of "experts" called upon in these cases is completely unaccountable.

Who judges the judges?

John Doe
Really interesting programme, but we need to hear the evidence from the other side. What are the police saying? Is the fingerprint the only evidence?

Who judges the judges when they put innocent people behind bars? How do innocent victims of the justice system obtain justice from the same system? Why is true justice still a goal and not a reality? Justice should not depend on the subjective, subconscious feelings and opinions of judges and magistrates, or juries. Justice should depend on facts and reality only.
John Doe

After seeing the programme, I was shocked to see that a so-called justice system could be so wrong. I, from my own experience, have found that it is a waste of time talking to your local MP, because you have a issue with the justice system and it means that they have to work. You can only get results if you are offering a corporate deal.
Ian Fletcher

It appears to me that the whole fingerprinting fraternity has a Masonic-like shroud of secrecy

Dan Portillo
I was appalled at the way in which the criminal justice system handled the case of Alan McNamara. Those involved in this case have no interest in seeing justice done and apparently no ability to scrutinise evidence in a clear and reasoned fashion. One again the system serves no one but the lawyers and judges.
Phil Wells

This seems to be yet another in a long line of human tragedies caused by the British Justice (sic) system. It appears to me that the whole fingerprinting fraternity has a Masonic-like shroud of secrecy and to hell with anyone who is unfortunate enough to be at their mercy. I hope this man will be freed soon and receive the largest amount of compensation because he and his family have suffered beyond belief.
Dan Portillo

People will always plead their innocence to the very end.
Paul Simms

I was shocked to see what had happened. What amazed me was how the system can be proved wrong but no one will take any notice. What is wrong with our laws and the courts?
Carl Strangeway

I found the program very interesting, having suffered something very similar myself. I am at present fighting to clear my name, and know how hard it is, even with the help of several members of the House of Lords in my corner.
C Mockford

Shocking! This is an example of sloppy detective work, and the police are getting away with it every day. Too busy waiting for a crime to happen, instead of doing their job properly. I hope Alan can clear his name and should sue for the money it costs him to do so.
Gordon Wardlaw

This is an outrage. How can these lives be ruined by our out-of-date and poorly-managed (crown prosecution) judicial system? I think this should be brought before Parliament - if not, even the European courts. If not only to help this poor family, but also to protect the rest of the population, we could be NEXT.
Neil Peacock

We must do something about this... it could happen to anyone of us. The law MUST be accountable to the people it serves. Can't we draw up a petition?

Well done on your expose, but I am amazed that the there was not one mention of the proportion of Masons in the police fingerprinting departments, and that being a very good point to explore when one is talking about the "closed shop" mentality.
Dave Mcgowan

I think its about time these so called fingerprint people should be put on trial themselves for giving wrong accusations. I was put in a cell two years ago for swearing at a police officer. I was only there for two hours but my fingerprints were taken. Is there any way you can get your fingerprints removed from the police files?

To spend one day without your liberty for something you did not do must be amongst the worst things that can happen to a person

Michael V
Why is Alan McNamara still in prison? Even if the courts needed to re-examine the new evidence presented, he should have been granted bail and he most definitely should have been given an appeal. What a complete travesty of justice.
Pam Brant
Feltham, Middx

I cannot imagine the suffering and anguish of a man like Mr McNamara, innocent and yet languishing in jail. To spend one day without your liberty for something you did not do must be amongst the worst things that can happen to a person. And without question there must be countless others in his position. The police and justice system in this case are corrupt and arrogant and I hope that when he does clear his name, they are forced to pay him a significant amount of money for their gross incompetence and dishonesty. My best wishes to his family.
Michael V

I am amazed and incensed by the failure of the legal system to deal with this case sensibly. Can't the Official Solicitor step in and take action to have him released pending appeal?
Roger Sloman

If an "expert" is shown to have given grossly misleading evidence, which could be construed as professional negligence, why cannot that "expert" be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice?
Bill Campbell
Newcastle upon Tyne

Excellent programme; I am appalled that Alan McNamara was convicted and remains in prison.
Ian Viles

Congratulations on an excellent and brave programme highlighting a flawed and, above all, complacent and arrogant "justice" system. The fact that none of the so-called experts had the guts to contribute proves that they know they are in the wrong but don't care.
M O'Brien

It has always been known that fingerprints are not 100% reliable as evidence. How long before we start seeing cases involving DNA? And how long after ID smart cards are introduced with fingerprints and DNA records will it be before more innocent people are arrested for crimes they did not commit?

After watching the programme I was appalled at how this man had been treated. The legal system needs changing to stop this kind of thing from happening. Any fool sorry, I mean Judge, could see that this man is plainly innocent and one of them should come forward and admit there has been a mistake, and this poor man and his family highly compensated for their lost time together!

Why doesn't the BBC stop wasting licence payers' money on criminals and actually start investigating issues which are of relevance to the general law-abiding population ?

Very informative programme. I saw the previous programme to do with this poor chap. My heart goes out to him and his family as I believe him to be completely innocent. I think the reason the authorities are not backing down is because if they admit there are flaws in fingerprint evidence then it would damage the one thing that has been trusted for so long. And having recently read on BBC News Online about somebody using household products to make false finger prints there maybe more trouble in the future.
Tim Haigh

It's unbelievable that the British justice system got it so wrong on this occasion! I felt so sorry for that poor little girl when her Daddy's phone card ran out and the phone just went dead. I hope he wins his appeal and takes the justice system for everything he can get!
Tim Taylor

Suggest the McManarras sue the arresting officer for falsifying evidence

Dave London
Yes it is terrible that innocent people can go to prison for crimes they did not commit. Sadly the CPS will not change its ways, neither will they do the same in Scotland you will always get people being punished for crimes they did not commit like the list of unfortunate cases in the past.

Suggest the McManarras sue the arresting officer for falsifying evidence. Also sue the Chief Constable. If they succeed, this should assist clearing McNamarra's name
Dave London

Despicable behaviour on the part of the police, "experts" and the judge who refused the appeal. Nothing will change until people like these are made accountable for their actions, personally. When they know what the consequences might be, they might think twice about falsely imprisoning an innocent man.

Watched your programme with interest and found it totally unbelievable that this could happen within the British justice system!
Dave Bennett

Just one more case of total injustice in this country. The British justice system stinks.
Ian Finch

Appalling. And they say we live in a just society.
Stephen Ward

Sensationalist, biased and unfair - as per normal from BBC Panorama. You probably didn't even do Mr McNamara justice.

Fingerprints on Trial

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