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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 11:59 GMT
Fingerprint office may be probed
Shirley McKie
Shirley McKie was accused of leaving fingerprints at a murder scene
Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson has said she is "open to having a further look" at Scotland's fingerprint system following the case of Shirley McKie.

Ms Jamieson said she would be happy for one of Holyrood's justice committees to re-examine the current system.

However, she repeated her view that there was no need for a fresh public inquiry into the case.

Ms McKie was cleared of lying on oath in 1999 after insisting a murder scene fingerprint was not hers.

The former policewoman was recently awarded 750,000 compensation.

'Not changed'

Calls have been growing for a full judicial review of the McKie case since the out-of-court settlement "without admission of liability" was reached with the executive earlier this month.

Scotland's lord advocate, Colin Boyd, has since defended his actions, saying he was right to prosecute Ms McKie for perjury.

Speaking to BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme, Ms Jamieson said the Scottish Executive's position on a public inquiry had "not changed".

"I think we have to be very clear that the decisions on prosecution in Scotland, a fundamental principle of our justice system, is that the lord advocate, as head of the prosecution service, takes those decisions.

"That is separate from politicians.

"My responsibility is to ensure we have the right policies in place."

Cathy Jamieson
A significant number of new measures have been put in place to improve things, however we are not complacent about that and we will do more
Cathy Jamieson
Justice minister

Ms Jamieson said that if there had been a "lessening of confidence" in the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO), which runs the fingerprint service, she must ensure that it was restored.

The original report which wrongly stated that the fingerprint found at the murder scene was that of Ms McKie was produced by the SCRO.

The minister said it would be possible for one of the justice committees in the Scottish Parliament to look at the current working of the organisation.

She said: "I don't believe that currently people working there [the SCRO] are a laughing stock, as has been described.

"I do believe that a significant number of new measures have been put in place to improve things, however we are not complacent about that and we will do more."

'Serious questions'

She added: "I am very open to having a further look if people wish, to ensure that we restore any lost faith in that organisation.

"But we must recognise that the SCRO as an organisation is operating to internationally recognised standards. Scotland is not out of step with the rest of the fingerprinting world."

Ms Jamieson described the payment made to Ms McKie as "the right thing to do" in recognition of the number of years she had suffered because of the accusations.

Recent reports have alleged that a US fingerprint expert who helped Ms McKie in her fight to clear her name had been asked by the FBI to keep quiet about it for fear of damaging the Lockerbie trial.

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie has said there were serious question marks over Scotland's criminal justice system while Scottish National Party deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon has backed the calls for a full inquiry.

The executive, which has already held two inquiries into the SCRO, has said it did not believe another would shed any new light on the nine-year-old case.


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