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Page last updated at 11:11 GMT, Thursday, 18 May 2006 12:11 UK

Fingerprints in the dock

Fingerprint under magnifying glass

For more than 100 years the identification of fingerprints has been fundamental to the solving of crimes.

A single fingerprint can provide enough evidence to send someone to prison for life.

Lawyers will advise clients to plead guilty if they cannot explain why their prints have been found at a crime scene.

WHAT PANORAMA FOUND OUT
You cannot underestimate the amount of damage done to the science of fingerprints in the world today.
Pat Wertheim
Fingerprint expert

Fingerprinting is not a science. It's an art, it's subjective. It's in the eye of the beholder.
Michael Mansfield QC
Lawyer

But the case of a former Scottish detective whose prints were misidentified by the country's top fingerprint bureau has shaken this faith around the world.

Earlier this year, Shirley McKie was given three quarters of a million pounds in an out of court settlement with the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO).

She had been charged with perjury after telling a court that a fingerprint found at a crime scene could not belong to her because she had never been to the house.

Panorama reporter Shelley Jofre

Michael Jackson's lawyers cited the McKie case when questioning the validity of fingerprint evidence at the singer's trial.

International fingerprint experts tell Panorama about their concerns that the infallibility of fingerprints as evidence is now in question.

The Scottish Parliament has invited the four fingerprint experts from the SCRO, who wrongly put Shirley McKie at the murder scene, to be interviewed about their work in the next few weeks.

Panorama: Fingerprints in the Dock was on BBC One on May 28 2006.



SEE ALSO
'Relief' over fingerprint verdict
07 Feb 06 |  Scotland
Fingerprints on trial
12 May 02 |  Panorama
Fingerprint evidence challenged
08 Jul 01 |  Panorama
Finger of suspicion
01 Jul 01 |  Panorama
Finger of suspicion: transcript
18 Jan 00 |  Scotland
McKie experts 'offered job deal'
14 Sep 06 |  Panorama

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