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Friday, 23 June, 2000, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Trial chaos fears played down
David Asbury lead away by police officers
Evidence in the trial of David Asbury is to be reviewed
Experts have played down fears that sweeping changes to the system of fingerprint identification could lead to a flood of appeals from convicted criminals.

A damning report on fingerprint evidence in the perjury case against former Strathclyde detective Shirley McKie had prompted concern that hundreds of criminal cases could be affected.

An independent report vindicated Ms McKie and recommended comprehensive changes at the Scottish Criminal Records Office, the body responsible for examining fingerprints.

Shirley McKie
Shirley McKie's case prompted the inquiry
Future cases relying on fingerprint evidence will now be double-checked and a review has been ordered into fingerprint evidence in the trial of David Asbury in 1997.

However, experts have played down the significance for the Scottish legal system.

JD Murray Maccara, of criminal law firm Beltrami & Co, said: "In the overall context of Scottish criminal law, I don't think fingerprint evidence is particularly important.

"I say that because it is only in a minority of cases that fingerprint evidence appears.

"That's not to say that fingerprint evidence is not crucial and there are a number of very high profile cases indeed where fingerprint evidence is crucial and would indeed be the major evidence against an accused person.

Evidence discredited

"As I say, in the overall context of Scottish criminal law, fingerprint evidence may not emerge, I think, as often as members of the public might expect it to emerge."

An inquiry into Scotland's fingerprint service was launched after an investigation by BBC Scotland discredited fingerprint evidence in Shirley McKie's trial for perjury.

Colin Boyd
Colin Boyd: Review ordered
Ms McKie was acquitted last summer and a report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary confirmed that fingerprint evidence against her was wrong.

SCRO experts testified that a print left at a murder scene matched Ms McKie's, a claim she strenuously denied.

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

Trial question

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

"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."

Lord Advocate Colin Boyd has ordered that fingerprint evidence in the trial of David Asbury, the case which Ms McKie was investigating when she was accused of perjury, is to be reviewed by an independent expert.

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

He denied the killing and fingerprint experts have since cast doubt over evidence presented in the case.

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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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