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BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor reports
"Shirley McKie was in parliament to hear Justice Minister Jim Wallace confirm her vindication"
 real 28k

Shirley McKie speaking on Holyrood Live
"I feel as if it was a day that would never happen"
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The BBC's Shelley Jofre reports
"BBC Scotland's investigation into the SCRO revealed Shirley McKie's case is not an isolated one"
 real 28k

Thursday, 22 June, 2000, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Fingerprints to be 'double-checked'
Shirley McKie
The case has attracted a lot media attention
Criminal convictions secured in Scotland using fingerprint evidence could be in jeopardy after a damning report.

In future, convictions relying on such evidence will be subjected to independent scrutiny as part of a sweeping shake-up recommended for the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO).

An inquiry into Scotland's fingerprint service was launched after an investigation by BBC Scotland discredited fingerprint evidence which led to a policewoman being charged with perjury.

A report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary subsequently vindicated former Strathclyde Police detective Shirley McKie, who had sought the help of an Armerican fingerprint expert via the internet.

Shirley McKie
Shirley McKie denied leaving a print at the scene
An independent report confirmed a fingerprint left at a crime scene did not belong to Ms McKie and has called for the SCRO to be overhauled.

The BBC's Frontline Scotland Finger of Suspicion programme contained expert opinion that SCRO staff working for Strathclyde Police wrongly identified a fingerprint at a murder scene in 1997.

It included a submission from US fingerprint expert Pat Wertheim, whom Ms McKie came across when while using the internet to prepare her case.

Ms McKie was accused of leaving a print and four SCRO experts said the print belonged to her.

The former officer was found not guilty of perjury at the High Court in Glasgow last summer, although the head of the SCRO maintained the fingerprint identification was sound.

'Not effective or efficient'

Independent inspectors confirmed the SCRO identification was wrong and have recommended new training, back-up and management structures should be put in place.

Ms McKie was in the gallery at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday to hear Justice Minister Jim Wallace give MSPs details of the report.

Mr Wallace said: "It concludes that, at present, the SCRO is not fully effective and efficient.

Jim Wallace speaking in the Scottish Parliament
Jim Wallace: Efficiency concerns
"Members will appreciate the seriousness of these findings.

"Fingerprint evidence is a vital tool in detecting and prosecuting crime and Scottish forces must be able to rely on fingerprint services which meet the highest standards.

"I certainly recognise this case has caused great distress to Ms McKie and I very much regret that."

Scotland's senior law officer, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd, told MSPs the Crown had acted in good faith in Ms McKie's case.

"I very much regret that Shirley McKie and her family underwent this ordeal," he said.

External checks

"And I pay tribute to her tenacity and that of her family in pursuing this matter."

He then went on to tell MSPs of the consequences of the affair.

In all current and future cases in which fingerprint evidence was provided by the SCRO, independent external checks would be made by other bureaux.

Colin Boyd
Colin Boyd: Crown acted in good faith
There have been calls for some cases where fingerprint evidence played a crucial part to be re-examined.

These include the case which Ms McKie was investigating.

In 1997, David Asbury, from Kilbirnie in Ayrshire, was jailed for the murder of Kilmarnock woman Marion Ross.

But he denied the killing and independent fingerprint expert Pat Wertheim has since cast doubt over evidence presented in the case.

Fingerprint evidence played a crucial role in Asbury's conviction and his family have appealed for the case to be overturned.

'It's been some fight'

Mr Boyd said he had asked officials to check how many appeals were outstanding based on claims of misidentified fingerprints.

"No such cases were found", he said.

Mr Boyd said an appeal against Asbury's conviction was pending, but no appeal grounds had been lodged challenging fingerprint evidence.

Outside the parliament Ms McKie said: "I'm just overwhelmed. I feel as if it was a day that would never happen and here I am. I'm just overwhelmed by it.

Mike Russell
Mike Russell: Heads must roll
"I'm just so pleased. It's been some fight. It really has."

And she called for three police personnel who gave evidence at her trial for perjury to be suspended.

She said: "As far as I know they are still working within the Scottish Criminal Records Office and that is appalling when I think about what happened to me."

Scottish National Party MSP Mike Russell said: "I am delighted that Shirley McKie has been vindicated at the end of her three-year ordeal.

"This has been an astonishing saga of incompetence and mismanagement.

"Now that at long last Shirley's reputation and good name has been restored, there must be a full investigation into this very serious matter, at the end of which heads must roll."

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See also:

16 May 00 | Scotland
False impression: transcript
19 Jan 00 | Scotland
Fingerprint procedure review call
17 Jan 00 | Scotland
Frontline Scotland
18 Jan 00 | Scotland
Finger of suspicion: transcript
07 Feb 00 | Scotland
Inquiry into fingerprint evidence
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