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BBC Scotland's Aileen Clarke reports
"The service was judged by the inspector not to be effective or efficient"
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Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Crime office faces shake-up
Shirley McKie being fingerprinted
Shirley McKie's case highlighted shortcomings
Scotland's Criminal Records Office is to be given a fundamental overhaul after a damning report by a government watchdog.

An inquiry by the Chief Inspector of Constabulary William Taylor was launched after the BBC programme Frontline Scotland raised serious concerns about fingerprinting carried out by the SCRO.

Mr Taylor has published his report, which warns that if the bureau does not receive a substantial, financial injection, the criminal justice system is unlikely to return to full effectiveness.

Jim Wallace
Mr Wallace: "Major changes"
On Wednesday Scottish Executive Justice Minister Jim Wallace promised that there would be sweeping change.

Mr Wallace said the reforms would be part of a wider review of how to improve police services in Scotland.

"The report highlights a number of significant recommendations and suggestions which will need to be addressed if SCRO is to operate to the high standards that the public expects," he said.

When the interim findings from Mr Taylor's report were released in June, he said the SCRO was "not managing its demands and processes in a fully effective and efficient fashion".

He has now made a number of recommendations:

  • New management arrangements should be put in place

  • A national fingerprint service should be considered

  • Competency based qualifications for staff should be introduced

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) has also been carrying out a review of the SCRO and released a report to coincide with Mr Taylor's investigation.

Acpos president, chief constable William Rae, said Mr Taylor's study marked a "vital step forward" in restoring public confidence in fingerprint procedures.

The problems in the SCRO were highlighted by the BBC when it reported the case of Ms McKie - a former detective constable - who was wrongly placed at the scene of a crime by fingerprint evidence.

A fingerprint
Ms McKie's print was wrongly identified
With the help of independent fingerprint experts she was able to clear her name.

An investigation into Ms McKie's case is ongoing, and Mr Rae said an explanation for the breakdown in the system would "emerge in due course".

He said: "Without waiting for that, though, we agreed that I should meet the family and offer our apologies for what they have been through.

"Consequently, I recently met Shirley and her father Iain and apologised to them.

Apology 'welcomed'

"I am personally saddened that they had to endure such torment, but anyone who has met Ms McKie will be impressed by her courage and fortitude.

"She is determined to do all she can to ensure her experience is never repeated and she generously welcomed my apology."

Acpos has agreed Mr Taylor's findings should be acted on quickly - and its report sets out how that might happen.

Mr Wallace added: "I recognise that this case has caused great distress to Shirley McKie and her family.

"I very much regret that and hope that the action announced will reassure them and the general public that we are committed to remedying the deficiencies identified."

 Click here to watch Finger of Suspicion, part of BBC Scotland's Frontline series.

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See also:

22 Aug 00 | Scotland
Fingerprint accused bailed
17 Aug 00 | Scotland
Murder appeal after print error
03 Aug 00 | Scotland
Fingerprint experts suspended
06 Jul 00 | Scotland
Fingerprint perjury inquiry launched
23 Jun 00 | Scotland
Trial chaos fears played down
22 Jun 00 | Scotland
Fingerprints to be 'double-checked'
16 May 00 | Scotland
False impression: transcript
18 Jan 00 | Scotland
Finger of suspicion: transcript
17 Jan 00 | Scotland
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