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Appeal over McKie expert's post

26 February 09 12:04 GMT

The Scottish Police Services Authority is to fight the reinstatement of a fingerprint expert who was dismissed over the the Shirley McKie scandal.

Fiona McBride was one of four experts who said a fingerprint left at a murder scene was that of Ms McKie.

Scottish ministers later accepted that a mistake was made and paid the former policewoman £750,000 in compensation.

Ms McBride was sacked from the Scottish Criminal Records Office. An employment tribunal ordered her reinstatement.

In 2007, the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) was incorporated into the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA).

Last month, an employment tribunal ordered that Ms McBride be reinstated by the SPSA and that all her rights and privileges, including pension rights, to which she was entitled at the time of her dismissal, be restored to her.

A spokesperson for SPSA said: "SPSA is confirming its decision to appeal against a substantive element of last month's employment tribunal findings in the case of fingerprint officer Fiona McBride."

The tribunal had found that SPSA had unfairly dismissed Ms McBride, awarding her £31,000 and reinstatement as a fingerprint officer.

SPSA has written to the employment tribunal appealing on the grounds that the tribunal erred in law by concluding that it was practicable to reinstate Ms McBride to the role of non-court attending fingerprint officer, and that Ms McBride had not contributed to her dismissal.

"SPSA is limiting its appeal to the issue of the reinstatement and is not contesting the decision of the employment tribunal that Ms McBride was unfairly dismissed."

'Resist appeal'

The SPSA said that since it had lodged an appeal it would not be reinstating Ms McBride.

Ms McBride's lawyer, David Ogilvy, from Turcan Connell, said his client would carry on her fight for reinstatement.

"Fiona was naturally delighted to win her case so emphatically in January," he said.

"She intends to resist the appeal and hopefully achieve reinstatement in due course.

"The key part of the judgment in her favour, however, was of course that she was unfairly dismissed and the fact that the SPSA is not challenging this finding is hugely significant."

The Shirley McKie affair has been one of the most controversial cases ever handled by the Scottish justice system.

Ms McKie was cleared of perjury after a fingerprint, said to be hers, was found at a house in Kilmarnock where a woman had been murdered in 1997.

She had always denied entering the property, but four fingerprint experts - including Ms McBride - maintained that the print belonged to her.

The case drew international attention with many independent analysts disputing the findings.

Despite the controversy, the four experts stood by their initial identification.

Redundancy deal

A subsequent inquiry by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary in 2000 backed Ms McKie and recommended an overhaul of procedures at the SCRO.

The four experts at the centre of the controversy were then suspended from duty but the following year the Crown Office ruled out any criminal action against them.

Ms McKie successfully sued the then Scottish Executive and SCRO over the affair and was awarded £750,000 in compensation.

In 2006, the four fingerprint officials at the centre of the case were offered a deal to leave their jobs.

Three of them accepted redundancy in March 2007 but Ms McBride declined and was eventually sacked.

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