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BBC OnePanorama


Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
My investigation: Fingerprints in the dock
Panorama reporter Shelley Jofre
Shelley Jofre has investigated fingerprints for seven years
By Panorama reporter Shelley Jofre

If you thought fingerprints were an infallible form of forensic evidence, think again.

That's what I thought when I first started investigating this intriguing story for the BBC seven years ago.

Since then, I've discovered that fingerprint experts are just as prone to making mistakes as the rest of us. That's worrying because a single print found at a crime scene can be enough to send someone to prison for life.

Unlike other forms of evidence, fingerprints don't require corroboration. If you can't explain how your print came to be somewhere it shouldn't, then you're in big trouble.

That's what happened to former police detective Shirley McKie. Her career was ruined and she even contemplated suicide after fingerprint experts wrongly identified a fingerprint found at a crimes scene as hers. That's serious enough.

However, my investigation into her case led me to discover that a man was actually wrongly convicted of murder after the same experts wrongly identified a print his case too. He has since had his murder conviction quashed.

This story has really opened my eyes to the blind reliance that has traditionally been placed on experts.

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