Shirley McKie case FINGERPRINTING IN THE DOCK 25 May 2006
McKie case opens door to hundreds of appeals, claims QC

Hundreds of prisoners convicted on fingerprint evidence may have grounds for appeal as a result of the Holyrood hearing into the Shirley McKie case, a QC claimed yesterday. Maggie Scott, chair of the Faculty of Advocates Criminal Bar Association, said there seemed to be a systematic failure by the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) and the Crown Office to tell defendants when fingerprint identifications had been disputed.

Last year a landmark ruling by the Privy Council said that failure to disclose information amounted to a breach of human rights and hence grounds for appeal. Ms Scott was speaking in light of evidence given to Holyrood's Justice 1 committee on Tuesday by Hugh Kelly, the head of the SCRO in the late 1990s.

The committee is looking at how the SCRO and its fingerprint service dealt with Ms McKie, the former Strathclyde police officer wrongly accused of intruding on a murder scene in 1997 after a print was incorrectly identified as hers by four SCRO experts. During Tuesday's session, Mr Kelly said if there had been dissent among SCRO experts about a print's identity, a "case conference" was held by a senior expert and three or four others. Asked by Alex Neil, the SNP MSP, if the Crown would be informed about such dissent, Mr Kelly said: "I would expect not." Mr Kelly said that, so long as a senior expert was confident of an identification, prints were passed as evidence to the Crown.

He also said it was possible SCRO officers may hold numerous meetings with different experts until there was a consensus. Ms Scott said it was astonishing that defendants were not told if fingerprints used against them were disputed within the SCRO. She told The Herald: "There could now be a whole range of cases that might have to be looked at." She said uncertainty over how the SCRO identified fingerprints was one of the most compelling reasons for holding a full public inquiry into the McKie case, something the Scottish Executive have so far resisted. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said it would not comment on evidence as it emerged during the inquiry.

  • Pressure mounts for McKie inquiry as US announces FBI investigation 22 March 2006
    THE United States' top law agency is investigating claims that its agents bullied law enforcement officers who expressed doubts about the Shirley McKie case. FBI agents have been accused of trying to silence forensic experts in the case of the Scottish policewoman accused of leaving a fingerprint at a murder scene to secure a clean reputation for the Scottish criminal justice system in the run-up to the Lockerbie trial. McKie family campaigners welcomed the move yesterday and said Scotland must follow with an inquiry of its own.

    Earlier this month, The Scotsman reported allegations by Juval Aviv, Pan Am's Lockerbie investigator, that two members of the Scottish Criminal Records Office, who had misgivings over the McKie evidence, were visited by FBI agents in 1999 or 2000 and pressured to "fall in line with the evidence" against Ms McKie. In another allegation, a fingerprint expert for the Illinois state police, Dave Grieve, said an FBI official pulled him aside at a forensics conference in 1999 and told him not to speak out about the McKie case. At the time, Mr Grieve was the editor of an international forensics journal and was planning an editorial criticising the SCRO, which had incorrectly identified the fingerprint of Ms McKie at a murder scene. Another US forensic expert who spoke out about faults in the SCRO's investigation, Pat Wertheim, has said he was pulled aside by an FBI agent at the same conference in 1999 and warned to keep quiet about the case, although Lockerbie was not mentioned.

    The FBI confirmed last night it was investigating the allegations. A bureau spokesman, Paul Bresson, said: "We have been fact-finding and interviewing relevant people to find out what happened. "To date, the FBI has not been made aware of any information that would substantiate the allegations that an FBI employee tried to interfere with the publication of an article about the SCRO as it relates to the Shirley McKie case or any other case."

    Mr Bresson added that the investigation was headed by the FBI's public affairs team and was not being treated as a criminal investigation. In 1999, Ms McKie was put on trial for perjury after denying she had left a fingerprint at the scene of a crime. However, scores of international fingerprint experts said the disputed print was not hers and she was acquitted.

    Last month, she received a £750,000 settlement from the Scottish Executive after a nine-year legal battle over the false accusation. But ministers have remained under opposition pressure to mount a full inquiry into the mishandling of her case. Last night, Mr Grieve said he had been contacted by an FBI official about his claims. He said: "The FBI officer was surprised and found what I had to say hard to believe. I said, 'Sorry, but it's true. It happened'."

    But a retired FBI officer, Richard Marquise, who headed the Lockerbie investigation from 1988-92, said he had no knowledge of any meddling and while he could not rule out the accusation, he found it "highly unlikely". He said: "I can't imagine that anyone in the FBI would have directed [the accused agent] to speak to a fellow law enforcement officer, nor can I imagine why [the agent] would have done so herself. [The agent] had nothing to do with the Lockerbie investigation."

    The SCRO has said publicly it had nothing to do with preparing evidence for the Lockerbie trial, so there would have been no reason why Mr Grieve's scathing editorial or a scandal within the organisation would have damaged the prosecution of Libyan suspects Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifah Fhimah. Campaigners for the McKie family have pointed out that the director of the SCRO at the time of the McKie affair, Harry Bell, was one of the key police officers whose evidence led to the conviction of Megrahi.

    Buck Revell, who, as executive assistant director, was the third in charge of the FBI during the Lockerbie investigation, said: "I can't imagine this would happen. Any agent who even inferred that another law enforcement officer should stay quiet because of Lockerbie would be subject to severe discipline and possible prosecution. It could have been an obstruction."

    Ms McKie's father, Iain McKie, said: "We welcome the FBI carrying out this fact-finding. It's extremely important to understand why officers were warned off. It may help us understand if there are in fact any links to the Lockerbie investigation."

    MSPs will hold McKie case inquiry

    A parliamentary inquiry will be held into the Shirley McKie fingerprint case, a Holyrood committee has decided. A majority of MSPs on the Justice 1 Committee backed the move after looking at a detailed defence from ministers of their refusal to hold a public inquiry. The committee has left open the possibility of hearing from the fingerprint experts who have continued to deny they made a mistake. Former detective Ms McKie was cleared of leaving her print at a murder scene.

    'Important work'

    The committee had put a vote on the inquiry issue off last Wednesday to allow members more time to consider a 29-page Scottish Executive letter. It detailed more than 100 reforms carried out since the case on the recommendation of two official investigations. Ms McKie received £750,000 in compensation after she was cleared of leaving her fingerprint at the scene of the murder of a Kilmarnock woman. Mike Pringle MSP, deputy justice spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, voted with opposition MSPs. He said the terms of reference would allow the committee to look at the reasons for the misidentification of fingerprints in the case.

    The remit of this inquiry will be wide enough to consider how our justice system is working following the issues that were raised by the McKie case

    However, the committee's three Labour members, including convener Pauline McNeill, warned such a move would be seen as an attempt to run a full public inquiry under the "guise" of a parliamentary inquiry. But after more than an hour and a half of tense exchanges, the wide-ranging remit was agreed by four votes to three. Mr Pringle welcomed the decision to hold an inquiry. He said: "The remit of this inquiry will be wide enough to consider how our justice system is working following the issues that were raised by the McKie case. "I look forward to the committee commencing on this important work, as we urgently need to restore public confidence in our fingerprint system." The committee has yet to decide who to call before it, but some members want to call the fingerprint officers at the centre of the row as well as either Shirley McKie or her father Iain.

    MSPs will invite written evidence next week and begin considering potential witnesses at their next meeting. The first oral evidence session is expected on 26 April. The inquiry remit will consider both the past and present running of the Scottish Criminal Records Office - which produced the original report wrongly stating that the fingerprint found at the murder scene was that of Ms McKie's - and the Scottish Fingerprint Service. The committee will also scrutinise the implementation of recommendations of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary's report of 2000, as well as the action plan announced by the justice minister for improvements in fingerprint and forensic services.

  • Scottish justice system in total disarray 22 March 2006
    Over recent months a picture has been revealed of a Scottish justice system in total disarray with the first minister, minister for justice and lord advocate apparently unwilling or unable to intervene. The Scottish Executive has continued to refuse a judicial inquiry into the facts behind the Shirley McKie case against a backdrop of mounting allegations of cover-up and inefficiency involving the police, Crown Office, lord advocate, first minister and minister for justice.

    For nine years the Scottish Executive has used a mixture of spin, procrastination and deceit to avoid an examination of its role in this debacle.

    Now in Strathclyde we have the chief constable accused of cover-up by refusing to reopen the Marion Ross murder inquiry. Meanwhile, his deputy is investigating police officers from Grampian accused of covering up evidence in the Arlene Fraser inquiry. To complicate things, Grampian's own deputy chief constable is instituting a discipline inquiry against one of his own fingerprint experts for not covering up the SCRO errors and speaking out. Last week Lothian and Borders police were asked to investigate Fife Police officers accused of deliberately misleading the Crown by withholding evidence in a murder trial 10 years ago.

    Amid this incestuous shambles, support for a judicial inquiry into the Shirley McKie affair is growing. For the first time in many years the public in Scotland sees such an inquiry as the best way of gaining insight into a system of justice that has grown arrogant and unanswerable to the people. From that should spring the knowledge and the impetus to change a system dominated by self-interest and political survival that has allowed the independence of the lord advocate and the Crown Office to be compromised by political expediency.

    Iain A J McKie, 27 Donnini Court, South Beach Road, Ayr.

    MSPs set to vote on McKie inquiry
    A Holyrood committee of MSPs is expected to vote on whether to stage a parliamentary inquiry into the Shirley McKie case. The Justice 1 Committee will examine a detailed defence from ministers of their refusal to hold a public inquiry into the fingerprints case. Former detective Ms McKie was cleared of leaving her print at a murder scene.

    A key vote was put off last Wednesday but it seems likely MSPs will vote for a parliamentary inquiry. Committee members called for more time to consider a 29-page Scottish Executive letter. It details more than 100 reforms carried out since the case on the recommendation of two official investigations. Ms McKie received £750,000 in compensation after she was cleared of leaving her fingerprint at the scene of the murder of a Kilmarnock woman.

  • MASONIC DIRTY TRICKS 19 March 2006
    How many masons work for the fingerprint service and use bogus evidence to get their brothers off while stitching up the innocent?

    Fake fingerprint claim in McKie case

    THE forensic expert who helped clear Shirley McKie of perjury in a murder inquiry has revealed the man police accused of the killing may have had faked fingerprint evidence used against him. Pat Wertheim has alleged that the Christmas gift tag found at the home of murder victim Marion Ross may have been "fabricated" with David Asbury's thumb print to link him to the crime.

    Wertheim examined a photograph of the print in close detail while carrying out his investigation into the former policewoman's case. He said marks on the photograph are highly similar to those that show up when a print is faked and that unlike the vast majority of fingerprints left at crime scenes, which are smudged and incomplete, Asbury's was as clear as those taken in the more clinical setting of a police station. Wertheim has now asked for the print to be released so it can be re-examined. It is understood to be in the possession of the Procurator Fiscal in Kilmarnock, but it has so far proved difficult to obtain and McKie's family fear it may have been destroyed.

    Shirley McKie was a detective with Strathclyde Police when, in February 1997, she was seconded to the murder squad investigating the death of Marion Ross. A thumbprint on a door frame was examined by the SCRO and wrongly identified as McKie's. When she denied having visited the murder scene, she was charged with perjury. Wertheim was one of two US fingerprint experts who gave evidence that the print was not hers. McKie was acquitted and was recently awarded £750,000 compensation by the Scottish Executive. Ministers claimed the incident was an "honest mistake". But demands are continuing to grow for a public inquiry into the case.

    The Asbury print was found on a gift tag decorated with bows and holly leaves in Ross's home but in the event that identification was not considered controversial because Asbury admitted having been in the victim's home the week prior to her murder. He was convicted on the basis that a fingerprint on a tin of money in his bedroom was that of the murdered spinster. His conviction was quashed when Wertheim showed that the fingerprint was not hers, and Asbury has now raised a civil action against the SCRO. Last night Wertheim said his latest findings would heap further pressure on ministers to launch a proper investigation into the affair. He said: "There are some suspicious things here. Some of these things raise alarms that demand further investigation. There are some suspicious lines in the photograph of Asbury's fingerprint on the gift tag, the kind of thin lines I might expect to see in a piece of acetate with a photocopied fingerprint.

    "I am not accusing anyone of making up evidence. All I am saying is that it bears a second look. "There may be a perfectly valid explanation for the issues surrounding the fingerprint on the gift tag and if that is the case, then I would accept that my suspicions are ill-founded. But this case just keeps getting weirder and weirder. The only way I can see to resolve it is with a judicial inquiry." The revelation last night sparked fury from McKie's family. Her father Iain said it suggested Asbury was "fitted up". He said: "Two out of the three prints identified in the Marion Ross murder case have been proved wrong. There are now suspicions about the third. If experts have doubts about this tag it must be examined. If the print is wrong we are looking at a much more serious investigation. Was Asbury fitted up? " Scotland on Sunday has previously revealed that police fingerprint experts manipulated evidence and covered up errors in the investigation.

    Several fingerprint experts at SCRO failed positively to identify McKie's print, only for their views to be ignored. A report into the affair by James Mackay, the former deputy Chief Constable of Tayside Police, later concluded that McKie's print "was disputed from the outset". A spokesman for the SCRO said: "A civil action by David Asbury is ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment further." Strathclyde Police refused to comment but a spokeswoman said: "Any new information that comes to light in respect of this inquiry will be investigated." A Crown Office spokesman said it had no comment to make.

  • Fingerprint expert who spoke out over McKie faces discipline 16 March 2006
    McKie row official faces action

    A fingerprint expert who spoke out over the Shirley McKie case is to face disciplinary action, it has emerged. Former detective Ms McKie was cleared of leaving a print at a murder scene. Gary Dempster, who works for the fingerprint bureau in Aberdeen, told the BBC it was wrong to suggest an honest mistake had been made.

    The SNP said possible Grampian Police action showed "paranoid secrecy" but ministers accused the party of playing politics with the prosecution service. Ms McKie was cleared of perjury and compensated after being accused of leaving her fingerprint at a murder scene in Ayrshire. The first minister has previously called the prosecution an honest mistake.
    'Service overhaul'

    But that verdict was disputed by fingerprint officer Gary Dempster, speaking to the BBC's Frontline Scotland programme. Grampian Police have now told Mr Webster that he faces a hearing as to whether he had broken rules by speaking to the BBC. SNP Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon said it was clear that a cover-up culture persisted. She said: "Does the deputy first minister share my concern that Mr Dempster was informed yesterday - and I have a copy of the letter here - that he is to face disciplinary proceedings at the specific request of the director of the Scottish Criminal Records Office - an organisation we are told is beyond reproach and has nothing to hide?"

    Nicol Stephen, standing in for the first minister, said he was unaware of Mr Dempster's case and said it was "a matter between employee and employer". But he insisted flaws in the fingerprint service had been tackled. "There could not have been a more major, a more significant overhaul of the fingerprint service," he said. "We have acted and we have taken decisive action."

  • MSP threatens to force McKie inquiry 14 March 2006
    Shirley McKie was wrongly accused of leaving her thumbprint at the scene of a murder

    McKie affair: MSP threatens to force inquiry

    A SENIOR Labour MSP has threatened to force a parliamentary inquiry into the McKie scandal unless ministers provide answers to crucial questions about the case. Pauline McNeill, convener of Holyrood's Justice 1 Committee and a loyal party member, has promised to "hold ministers to account" unless they explain clearly what went wrong with the Scottish Fingerprint Service and how it has been remedied. McNeill warns that her committee will hold an inquiry into the matter if members feel crucial questions have not been properly answered. The Scottish Fingerprint Service has been engulfed by a crisis of confidence as a result of the Shirley McKie affair. McKie was a detective with Strathclyde Police when, in February 1997, she was wrongly accused of leaving her thumbprint at the scene of a murder. Fingerprint experts at the Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO) identified McKie's print, and when she continued to protest her innocence she was tried for perjury. She was acquitted after two American experts successfully challenged the fingerprint evidence.

    Last month the Executive awarded her £750,000 damages in an out-of-court settlement. Scotland on Sunday has subsequently revealed details of a police report into the case which found evidence of criminality and conflicting opinions within the SCRO. Now, in a letter to Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson, McNeill, on behalf of the committee, is demanding answers to seven key questions, including:

    • Will the Executive provide details of the weaknesses identified in the Scottish Fingerprint Service following internal reviews and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary inspections?

    • Precisely what steps have been taken since 2000 in order to address these weaknesses?

    • What has been done to review identifications made by the SCRO fingerprint bureau, including through external peer review, in order to validate their findings?

    • What has been done in response to recommendations contained in a 2000 report into the SCRO which was critical of the agency?

    • What further steps will be taken in order to restore confidence in the SCRO and Scottish Fingerprint Service?

    Last week MSPs voted along party lines against a public or judicial inquiry into the McKie case despite widespread public concern that the affair was damaging the reputation of Scottish justice. McNeill said: "I cannot say if there will be an inquiry - that will be up to the committee. What I can say is that we will hold the Executive to account and we will continue asking questions until we are satisfied. Our job is to hold the Executive to account." She added: "In our letter to the Executive we made it clear that an inquiry had not been ruled out."

    McNeill said MSPs would consider calling and questioning David Mulhearn, the interim director of the Scottish Police Service Authority who is preparing a report on the restructuring of the Scottish Fingerprint Service. A spokeswoman for the Executive said: "The minister has made it clear that she will be happy to co-operate with the committee." Meanwhile, the beleaguered Scottish Fingerprint Service is on the verge of all-out civil war, with experts in Aberdeen poised to move a vote of no confidence against their Glasgow colleagues unless ministers rubber-stamp their independence of the SCRO.

    A public declaration of no confidence in the SCRO fingerprint bureau has been placed on hold only because managers in the Scottish Fingerprint Service have assured experts in Aberdeen and Edinburgh that the SCRO is to be stripped of its supervisory role. One senior expert said: "We can't continue to operate within the current set-up because of the damage that has been done to the reputation of Scottish fingerprinting. "Whether the mistakes were honest or not, the fundamental position remains unchanged - they should not still be employed by the SCRO and should not be doing this kind of work. Unfortunately, they have many good colleagues, both in Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland, but we are all tarred by the same brush."

  • Fingerprint experts boycott conference over McKie affair 14 March 2006
    A MAJOR international fingerprint conference to be held in Scotland this week will be boycotted by experts over the refusal of Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO) analysts to admit they misidentified a fingerprint as policewoman Shirley McKie’s. The Fingerprint Society, one of the world’s most prestigious forensic bodies, is facing an unprecedented crisis after a decision to accept an SCRO invitation to host its annual gathering at Tulliallan police training college in Fife. Experts have told the Sunday Herald that, despite the meeting being the biggest date in the UK’s forensic calendar, they will refuse to travel to Scotland because they believe their presence would “legitimise” the SCRO experts’ position that no mistakes were made in the Marion Ross murder investigation. The three-day conference, to begin next Friday, comes as controversy continues to rage over the case, in which a fingerprint found at the victim’s home in 1997 was said by the SCRO to belong to McKie, then a police detective.

    Last month the Scottish Executive paid McKie £750,000 in damages and admitted the analysts had got it wrong. It was also revealed that as far back as 2000, a police inquiry into the print had found evidence of “criminality and cover-up” on the part of the SCRO experts and had recommended their prosecution, but no action was taken by Lord Advocate Colin Boyd. The society agreed to take its conference to Scotland this year after a personal invitation by Robert Mackenzie, the SCRO’s deputy head and a member of the Fingerprint Society committee. Mackenzie, whose name appears on the society’s website as the contact for the event, was one of six SCRO experts named in the McKie legal case. The SCRO experts deny any wrongdoing and insist the print belongs to McKie. Last night, the revelation that the controversial case had now spilled over into open dissent among members of the Fingerprint Society led to further pressure on the Scottish Executive to resolve the crisis. It also underlined the devastating effect that the McKie affair is having on fingerprinting internationally. News of the boycott follows demands for a public inquiry from politicians, criminal lawyers and former high court judges over the past month.

    The Sunday Herald has been told of UK and US experts who are boycotting the conference. One UK expert who is a member of the Fingerprint Society said: “I will not be going this year and I know that I’m not alone. I know several others who are boycotting the conference from the UK because of the involvement of the SCRO in this and because they have made mistakes but are not prepared to admit their errors. “I would have gone had the conference been held outside Scotland, but I can’t come to Tulliallan because it will be interpreted as legitimising what the SCRO have done. I can’t do that.” Another said he was aware of a “large number” of Scottish fingerprint experts, and some from the US, who were refusing to attend. Allan Bayle, an independent expert from England who concluded that the disputed mark was not McKie’s, said: “I won’t be going this year because the Fingerprint Society has sat on the fence as this case devastates fingerprinting. They’ve done nothing to resolve it.

    “How can I go to a conference organised in Scotland by the very people who are damaging fingerprinting?” Bayle also confirmed that other finger print experts were boycotting the Tulliallan conference. Another aspect that has drawn criticism of the meeting is the decision not to have any mention of the McKie case at the conference. A source told the Sunday Herald that fingerprint experts had approached the society with the suggestion that the meeting should be used as a forum to resolve the McKie crisis. He added, however, that the request had been ignored. Pat Wertheim, a US expert who withdrew his Fingerprint Society membership in 2001, said: “I did not agree with the society’s complete silence on controversial cases. I can understand why many are boycotting this year. If I was still a member I wouldn’t be going.”

    The decision to hold the con ference at Tulliallan is also contentious, as the police college was the venue at which Mackenzie made a presentation to police chiefs and international fingerprint experts on behalf of the SCRO showing why he believed the disputed mark was McKie’s. At the presentation in August 2000, alongside Alan Dunbar, the SCRO’s quality assurance manager, Mackenzie claimed to have found 45 matching characteristics. Both agreed that if the crime scene mark was proved to have been made by a single touch, then it could not have been made by McKie. However, as the Sunday Herald reported last week, Peter Swann – an independent fingerprint expert and the main supporter of the SCRO’s case that the print is McKie’s – told this news paper that the mark could only have been made by one touch.

    One international fingerprint expert said the society had a “duty” to debate the issue and help resolve the crisis caused by the McKie case. He said: “If the most important matter in fingerprinting just now is avoided, then the conference is just a sham. ” Iain McKie, Shirley’s father, said: “I told them a year ago that the legal case would be taking place around now and the very person hosting it would be one of the individuals named in the court action. “It seems to me that by holding this conference in Scotland they are endor sing an organisation and aligning themselves with people who have been pro ven to be incompetent at best and criminal at worst.” Annabel Goldie, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said the boycott highlighted the need for a public inquiry.

    “This could not be a clearer signal from a group of highly regarded professionals that the Scottish Executive has failed abysmally to address escalating concerns over the whole issue of the Shirley McKie fingerprint,” she said. “The only answer is a public inquiry. This is yet another very damning judgement on the Scottish Executive by people who have no political axe at all to grind.” Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, added: “Fingerprint experts around the world don’t have confidence in the Scottish system and understandably don’t want to be put in a position to almost endorse a system that they have got concerns about. A public inquiry is essential because we’ve got to begin to restore confidence and credibility in our fingerprint service.” A spokesperson for the the Fingerprint Society said that nobody was available for comment. A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said last night that ministers did not consider that a public inquiry would “shed any new light on a incident that occurred nine years ago”.

  • McKie case has implications for any accused persons going to the courts 10 March 2006
    While I welcome Paul McBride's views, (Platform, 8 March) on the matter of a public inquiry into the Shirley McKie case, they are ill-informed. His total belief in the Lord Advocate and the justice minister must be heartening for them. However, it is not so heartening for accused persons going before our courts who might hope for some more objective analysis from a criminal lawyer and perhaps just a touch of caution before swallowing the party line and accepting that all is well within the Scottish Criminal Records Office. On a point of detail, there were only two civil actions and not three, as he suggests at the instance of Shirley McKie. Both were disposed of without evidence having been led. In neither were any issues answered by any independent person, judge or otherwise. He suggests there have been two "inquiries". The HMIC report of 2000 says: "The experts were not asked to explain why in their view SCRO experts were mistaken ... They were asked to assist HMIC in the inspection process and not to undertake an enquiry."

    They examined the systems to root out an error, and not to find out why an error occurred or how culpable it is. The other inquiry referred to is presumably that of Deputy Chief Constable James MacKay. That his conclusions do not echo Mr McBride's complacency about the justice system has been only too evident over the past weeks. Mr McBride says he is unaware of any person being refused legal aid to check fingerprint evidence. David Asbury, who was eventually released from life imprisonment because SCRO identifications could not be trusted, was on at least three occasions refused that legal aid. It was only once BBC Panorama paid for the expert examination that the events leading to his acquittal fell in to place. Paul McBride's suggestion that the media have listened to the McKie campaign because they shouted the loudest is insulting and inaccurate. When people as respected as Lord Mackay and Lord McCluskey speak out, perhaps he should listen.


    I am grateful to Lord McCluskey (Letters, 4 March) for conceding that the first issue of fact for the proposed judicial inquiry would be whether the SCRO fingerprint experts were right or wrong in their identification of Shirley McKie's fingerprint. That is, indeed, progress, particularly given his Lordship's previous statement (25 February) that the issue was: "Did [SCRO] officers lie, or just make a mistake?" While he accuses me of writing in sour terms, he ignores the daily attacks on the SCRO experts by, for example, BBC Scotland, which clearly assumed these people were a soft target. The Scottish people are entitled to the whole truth.

    Manygates Lane
    Wakefield, Yorkshire

    Lord McCluskey calls for a judicial Inquiry into the Shirley McKie case, which has dragged on for the past nine years, mostly due to the Scottish Executive dragging its heels hoping it would go away. Its failure, in not sanctioning a judicial inquiry could bring the Scottish legal system into disrepute. As Lord McCluskey says: "Justice must be seen to be done." Most people wish to see this fiasco come to a just and honest conclusion.

    Haig Street, Portknockie

  • McKie Nine-year fight to clear name 10 March 2006
    Cash appeal for McKie case review

    CAMPAIGNERS have launched a "fighting fund" to lobby for an inquiry into the Shirley McKie case. Iain McKie, the father of the policewoman wrongly accused of leaving a fingerprint at a murder scene, said he hoped to raise between £50,000 and £100,000 from the public for a legal campaign.

    After a call for a public inquiry was defeated in parliament on Wednesday, the money will fund the cost of lobbying for a judicial review. If that process is unsuccessful, the money could fund a private prosecution, Mr McKie said. Last month Ms McKie won £750,000 in an out-of-court payment by the Executive at the end of a nine-year legal battle. But opposition politicians and a host of campaigners have called for a public inquiry into allegations of criminality within the fingerprint department of the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO). Mr McKie said the plan for a fighting fund followed a groundswell in public support. He said: " We are first of all going to seek a judicial review of the government's decision not to have an inquiry.

    If that is not successful, we are going to look at a private prosecution. To do that we need cash." Mr McKie said he did not want to use his daughter's settlement money to fund the appeal. If the fighting fund money is not used to finance a judicial review or a private prosecution, it would be donated to a justice charity. The announcement came after a meeting between Mr McKie and Jim Swire, the father of a Lockerbie victim. The two men have asked for revelations suggesting a link between the McKie case and the Pan Am bombing trial to be explored at the inquiry. A former Lockerbie investigator has told The Scotsman that the FBI wanted the McKie case "swept under the carpet" to avoid any embarrassment about doubtful fingerprint evidence.

    The Lord Advocate has insisted there was no link between the two cases.

    Mr McKie and Mr Swire said they still sought answers to several questions - such as the role of Harry Bell, the head of the SCRO and a key investigator in the Lockerbie trial. Mr Swire, who lost his 24-year-old daughter, Flora, in the Pan Am air disaster in 1988, said he, the McKie family and observers across the world needed explanations. He said: "The reputation of our country and its criminal system will depend upon how these cases are sorted out." In the history of modern Scots law, no more than a couple of private prosecutions have succeeded. Such prosecutions, which substitute privately-hired lawyers in place of the Crown, require the consent of the Lord Advocate, who has already denied there was any criminality in the McKie case.

    During Question Time in parliament yesterday, Jack McConnell insisted it was "time to move on" . The First Minister said: "A move towards a settlement last year resulted in a letter from Miss McKie's father to the minister for justice, thanking her for her approach and welcoming the steps she was then taking. "I think that was a positive indication from the McKie family that they welcomed that approach at that time." Opposition leaders challenged Mr McConnell to a free vote over a public inquiry. The Nationalists' leader at Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon, made the call a day after ministers survived an opposition onslaught over their stance on the McKie affair.

  • The £750,000 honest mistake 10 March 2006
    Judge urged to increase pay-out by £100,000

    A JUDGE was urged yesterday to penalise the Scottish Executive's handling of the Shirley McKie fingerprint case by adding a possible £100,000 to the cost of the litigation on the public purse. Lawyers for Ms McKie claimed ministers had "caved in" after more than four years of fighting her damages claim by agreeing a £750,000 settlement on the day it was to be heard in court. They said the figure did not sit easily with an insistence that there had been only "an honest mistake" in identifying a fingerprint at a murder scene as Ms McKie's.

    The Executive maintained, however, that the deal was made expressly without any admission of liability, and that it had acted properly and should not have to face the "draconian sanction" of paying an enhanced level of expenses to Ms McKie. After a day of legal argument in the Court of Session, the judge, Lord Hodge, announced that he would issue his ruling at a later date. The settlement last month included payment of £750,000 to Ms McKie, and the Executive covering her expenses - a sum yet to be calculated - for lawyers and witnesses. A higher scale of fee can be used in the calculation of expenses if a judge deems it appropriate to mark "the court's displeasure".

  • Lord Advocate fingerprint cover up 10 March 2006
    Law chief threatens gagging order

    The lord advocate yesterday threatened to impose a rare gagging order on lawyers representing Shirley McKie, to limit what they could mention in a court action. The threatened use of a public interest immunity certificate was defended by counsel for Colin Boyd, even although the document the Crown is trying to keep confidential, a report by the former deputy chief constable of Tayside police, has already been extensively quoted in the press. At the Court of Session yesterday, the McKie camp was seeking extra costs because it says the Scottish Executive obstructed Ms McKie's case for compensation. The case opened with reference to the possible gagging order. Andrew Smith, QC, counsel for Ms McKie, made clear that Paul Cullen, QC, appearing for the lord advocate, had agreed to his written line of argument, provided he did not stray from it.

    Should he do so, Lord Hodge heard, Mr Cullen could invoke the gagging order in relation to the use of a report by James MacKay, formerly of Tayside police, who had been asked to carry out investigations into the affair. Mr MacKay's confidential report referred to an alleged "criminal course of action" by staff at the Scottish Criminal Record Office. Mr Cullen said that, after discussions with Ms McKie's counsel over the report, there would be no need to address the issue of a public interest immunity certificate. After complaints of alleged criminal conduct by SCRO staff, the lord advocate instructed the regional prosecutor for North Strathclyde to carry out a parallel investigation. The Tayside inquiry then fell to be regarded as a police inquiry, and it was ultimately given consideration in the Crown Office. Mr Cullen said: "The lord advocate's view is clear that the report in question is a confidential police report, and it relates to the investigation into allegations of criminal conduct by a number of individuals.

    "He has carefully considered whether it would be in the public interest for that document to be produced, and has come to the clear conclusion that it would not be in the public interest. "The lord advocate regards as important that further reference to this confidential report would effectively expose persons involved to a form of public trial without having been given an opportunity to defend themselves or explain their position." Mr Smith said yesterday that the decision to pay as much as £750,000 in compensation was an indication that the wrongful identification of a fingerprint at the Kilmarnock murder scene of Marion Ross was, in itself, evidence that it was not seen as an honest mistake against Ms McKie. Arguing that there had been malice on the part of the SCRO, and subsequent obstruction by the executive, he said: "We were trying to fight this case with our hands tied behind our backs. We were not being given information voluntarily. We were frustrated by not being allowed to precognose SCRO officers." Lord Hodge reserved judgment but, if he awards extra expenses, thought to be about £100,000, that will be seen as a criticism of the way ministers have handled the case.

    John Scott, the human rights lawyer, said he could recall only one recourse to public interest immunity certificates in Scotland, in a case that involved protecting police informants inside prison. He said: "The threat of a PIIC is wholly inappropriate, adding to the impression of a cover-up of an issue that will not go away." The McKie case continued to rumble on yesterday at the Scottish Parliament, with Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP seeking to pin down the first minister on a claim he made earlier this week that the executive continued to fight the case in order to save the taxpayer money. She pointed out that the sum settled for, £750,000, was exactly the sum first claimed more than four years before the settlement. When Jack McConnell tried to hide behind the qualification that it was this sum "plus interest" there were noisy exchanges in the chamber. Afterwards Ms Sturgeon said the fight for a full public inquiry would go on, while for the Tories, Bill Aitken accused the first minister of acting "like a second-hand car salesman". Ian McKie, father of Ms McKie, announced that a fighting fund was now being opened to help force a public inquiry into the saga.

  • McKie cover-up 9 March 2006
    It is right that the Shirley McKie case should continue to command attention in the media. All cases involving cover-ups by the establishment should be pursued until properly resolved. The thing that strikes one about this case, and others similar to it, is the stench of lies and hypocrisy that emanate from them. Here we have government and its agencies, refusing to tell the truth and open the books to fair and reasonable scrutiny.

    Not so long ago, the First Minister, Jack McConnell, stood before the Queen, subscribing to the virtues of truth, compassion, justice and integrity. Now he must decide which is more important - that vow, or power at any cost. Should we hold our breath? For the sake of the woman who suffered the disappointment of what "Brave New Scotland" offered in 1999, but has so far failed to deliver, I sincerely hope so.

    Elgin, Moray

    Lord McCluskey (Letters, 4 March), set out in plain words all the compelling reasons why a full and fair judicial inquiry must be held into the Shirley McKie case. By refusing to hold such an inquiry, a few political and legal reputations can be temporarily preserved, while a greater number of ordinary people continue to be denied justice. The much vilified Scottish Criminal Records Office personnel involved in this case have so far received no redress to the serious and frequently fanciful allegations as to their competence. Iain and Shirley McKie are also denied justice, although they might not find the outcome of a judicial or any other inquiry to their liking.

    Thornfield Terrace Selkirk

  • Remember the real issue in McKie case 9 March 2006
    SO the pressure for a public inquiry into the Shirley McKie case mounts on a daily basis. There are different reasons expressed for the need of such an exercise. As far as I am concerned, there are two reasons further investigations of the whole affair are required. Most people are now totally confused as to who said what and which "expert" to believe. However, more importantly and with respect to Ms McKie's feelings of aggrievement, a wee lady who appears never to have harmed anyone suffered a lonely and brutal death. As someone who lives in Kilmarnock I wish the perpetrator of this horrific crime identified, brought to justice and punished. That is the real issue in this case and it appears frequently to be lost sight of.

    Timothy J Purdon, 18 Howard Park Drive, Kilmarnock.

    LORD Mackay's salient points (March 8) on the Shirley McKie case lay out quite clearly the way ahead in resolving some of the disturbing features in the actions of the executive, the Scottish Criminal Record Office, the Crown Office and the lord advocate, Colin Boyd. If his advice that Ms McKie should bring a private prosecution, if she so wishes, against some or all of those implicated in her wrongful accusations, is taken up, I am sure great numbers of the public, including myself, will amply fund such a course. The second point about the separation of the powers and function of the executive and the Crown Office in the person of the lord advocate will astonish many people, here and abroad, that such a proposal is required.

    The final request for the SCRO to be subject to an inquiry, so that their methods and applications can be trusted by the public, is admirable, and I trust international agencies would be willing to help. One aspect is still greatly perplexing me. If it can be shown that the office of lord advocate can be manipulated for political purposes, from whatever source, at the expense of justice for individuals like Shirley McKie and Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, could Lord Mackay (or Lord Hardie) advise as to the proper procedures for a prosecution of the lord advocate?

    Iain Johnstone, Westbank Cottages,Macmerry, East Lothian.

    HOW utterly crass but depressingly typical were the grounds advanced by Jack McConnell in resisting demands for a public inquiry into the McKie case. What is the political motivation of leading lawyers, prominent police officers, fingerprint experts and citizens concerned for the future of the criminal justice system? What is the party political motivation of Baillie Dr Christopher Mason, a Liberal Democrat, who called for an inquiry in these columns last month? (I should declare a personal interest: Dr Mason is my local councillor and called at my home last year – long after the 2003 elections! – to thank me for my letters on Iraq. My citation of him is in no wise motivated by personal gratitude.)

    Despite his membership of Thatcher governments, I would include Lord Mackay of Clashfern in the same category. Before his appointment as lord advocate and subsequent elevation to the Woolsack he had, as far as I know, no record of political activity. His own call for a judicial inquiry is now clarified and amplified by a masterly exposition of the case. The headless chickens of the Holyrood opposition who could not agree exactly into what they wanted to inquire should cut out and keep his letter. Lord Mackay, a mathematician before his fall from (academic) grace into the law, distinguishes with Euclidean lucidity among matters fit for the courts, those appropriate for debate and those suitable for a public inquiry: "the underlying science of fingerprint evidence and the practical application of that science to the identification of an individuals." His intervention, alas, probably disqualifies a man superbly equipped to chair the inquiry: Lord Mackay himself.

    Thomas McLaughlin, 4 Munro Road, Glasgow.

  • Court costs ruling may open new chapter in McKie case 9 March 2006
    MINISTERS last night won a key battle in their campaign to bring an end to the Shirley McKie affair but a court action will today examine their conduct in the case. There have been mounting calls for a public inquiry to be held after the former Strathclyde Police officer received a £750,000 settlement from the Scottish Executive. Ms McKie had been accused of leaving her fingerprint at a murder scene. She repeatedly protested she had not been present, and was later cleared of perjury. MSPs debated the matter last week with the SNP, Tories and Greens joining forces to urge ministers – who have insisted Ms McKie was simply the victim of "an honest mistake" by fingerprint experts at the Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO) – to acknowledge concerns about the case.

    MSPs yesterday rejected by 64 votes to 51 the SNP motion, which claimed the issues in the McKie case went to the heart of public trust in the criminal justice system. The McKie campaign will today seek a judgment on legal costs in the Court of Session. If Lord Hodge finds in favour of Ms McKie and allows a higher settlement on costs, he will be, in effect, accepting that throughout the saga ministers failed to act in good faith. The executive is already on difficult grounds this week following an insistence by Jack McConnell, the first minister, on Monday that the delay in settlement to Ms McKie related to her making an increased compensation claim, which was not the case.

    Today's action before Lord Hodge will decide whether legal fees should be on the standard scale, or whether the expenses should be "uplifted" on the basis that the executive or Crown Office did not act in good faith by denying key evidence to the McKie side. The Herald understands that the argument in court today will focus on the MacKay report. The conclusions of an investigation by James MacKay, Tayside Police's then deputy chief constable, into the affair was withheld by the executive until it was leaked on the eve of Ms McKie's civil court action. One MSP said last night: "Today's hearing is critical to the credibility of the government. If a judge rules that the executive's behaviour has been reprehensible in withholding crucial information from the McKie side it could hardly be more damaging." Iain McKie, Ms McKie's father and himself a former Strathclyde Police superintendent, said: "It is a very significant hearing because the application has been phrased in order to demonstrate whether or not there was bad faith."

    It was also alleged yesterday that the McKie inquiry was closed down as a result of involvement by the FBI in the US who were concerned that question marks over the SCRO would spread to the Lockerbie case. A spokeswoman for the fingerprint service said: "SCRO can confirm that a fingerprint expert did visit the FBI around those dates. The purpose of this visit was to look at methods for court preparation, training and third level detail, and was totally unrelated to the McKie case. "At no time during this visit was the case of Shirley McKie discussed or the name McKie mentioned. "SCRO was not involved in any way with the fingerprinting of the Lockerbie disaster. The recent speculation about a link between the cases is without foundation." The statement continued: "A settlement has been reached and it's time to draw a line under this. Ms McKie could have taken the opportunity of having this heard in court but chose to accept a settlement." Ministers insist that the issue has been fully aired and there is no need for any further inquiry, but the court ruling today could call that judgement into question.

  • FBI ordered McKie case 'swept under carpet' 8 March 2006
    Pan Am investigator Juval Aviv revealed US agents put pressure on SCRO McKie faced trial for perjury after denying she left a print at a crime scene MPs have called for a public inquiry

    Key quote "This revelation makes the case for an inquiry absolutely compelling. If ministers knew about this, they should have disclosed it to parliament earlier." - SNP MSP Alex Neil Story in full THE FBI met senior members of Scotland's forensic service to ensure the Shirley McKie affair was "swept under the carpet" and so avoid any embarrassment in the run-up to the Lockerbie trial, according to an investigator into the bombing. Juval Aviv, who was Pan Am's senior Lockerbie investigator, said officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation travelled to Scotland to pressure the Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO) into a swift resolution of the McKie fingerprint case.

    Mr Aviv said that during discussions with two senior members of staff in the fingerprint laboratory at SCRO in 1999 or 2000, both told him they had misgivings over the evidence against Ms McKie but had been urged to "fall in line with the evidence". Campaigners and politicians, some of whom will tomorrow hold a press conference on the possible links between the two cases, said Mr Aviv's revelation reinforced the urgent need for a public inquiry into the whole McKie affair. The SCRO admitted last night that the FBI met its officers to talk about Lockerbie but vehemently denied any comments were made about the McKie case.

    Mr Aviv's accusations centre on an intense period of activity leading up to the trial of two Libyans accused of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. Part of the case against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi involved a contentious fingerprint lifted from a travel document in Malta. The fingerprint had only 12 matching points to suspected bomber Megrahi; many courts require 16 matching points. Although the SCRO had nothing to do with identifying it, the credibility of the fingerprint was important. In 1999, a year before the trial was due to get under way at Kamp van Zeist, the McKie controversy blew up.

    The Strathclyde policewoman had been put on trial for perjury after denying she had left a fingerprint at the scene of a crime. However, scores of international fingerprint experts said the disputed print was not hers and she was acquitted. The revelation put at risk the credibility of Scotland's fingerprint service. Mr Aviv said it was about this time the FBI flew to Scotland. "I heard about the [McKie] case and FBI putting pressure on the labs. I received phone calls from sources within the fingerprint lab saying the FBI visited Scotland and met with people in charge to discuss falling in line with the [McKie] evidence. They met several times and they co-ordinated actions." He went on: "[The SCRO] was under pressure from the FBI to manufacture evidence to suit this trial and convict the Libyan. [The FBI told it] any scandal that could taint this evidence could really interfere with Lockerbie and should be put under the carpet." Mr Aviv said the FBI visit was part of a larger effort to gain consensus among Scottish investigators over Lockerbie evidence. He said: "The sources were appalled. That's one thing that you do not do - interfere with a court case in The Hague and accuse two people who could get life in prison with manufactured evidence. They [the sources] were fed up with it." Mr Aviv would not reveal the SCRO sources nor allow The Scotsman to interview them, despite promises of anonymity. He also refused to provide details of which FBI officers visited Scotland and could not recall the exact date of the visit.

    Last month, it was reported that David Grieve and Pat Wertheim, two American fingerprint experts who were consulted in the McKie case, had been told by FBI officials not to speak publicly about the case in the months before the Lockerbie trail. Shirley McKie's father, Iain McKie, said yesterday that Mr Aviv's claims added to a growing body of evidence linking the two cases. "The only logical explanation for the ordeal my daughter has gone through is that the SCRO was making sure there was nothing to rock the boat before such an important case that also relied on forensic evidence," he said. "This new evidence [from Mr Aviv] of cross-fertilisation shows the common cast of characters, in the FBI and SCRO, were indeed linked."

    Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, said Mr Aviv's claims made the case for a public inquiry "overwhelming". "These latest allegations reinforce the need for a judicial inquiry," he said. "We have no way of knowing whether the allegations can be substantiated, which makes it fundamentally important that a judge is placed in a position to find out. "It is unfathomable that revelation should follow revelation, and accusation follow accusation, and still there has been no inquiry, which is something just about everyone involved in the case now demands."

    The SNP MSP Alex Neil said: "This revelation makes the case for an inquiry absolutely compelling. If ministers knew about this, they should have disclosed it to parliament earlier. If they did not, it begs the question as to how much they did know and how much they were kept in the dark by the SCRO." Jim Swire, whose daughter died in the Lockerbie bombing and who believes Megrahi was wrongly convicted, said Mr Aviv's claims were consistent with a general pattern. He said: "Juval Aviv's comments seem to tally with previous reports that there may have been pressure brought on the SCRO by the FBI, which might have amounted to, or contributed to, a perversion of the course of justice in the McKie case, and that this pressure may have been motivated by an improper attempt to protect the interests of the burgeoning Lockerbie case at the time." Yesterday, a spokesman for the SCRO said: "SCRO can confirm that a fingerprint expert did visit the FBI around those dates. The purpose of this visit was to look at methods for court preparation, training and third-level detail, and was totally unrelated to the McKie case. At no time during this visit was the case of Shirley McKie discussed or the name 'McKie' mentioned.

    "SCRO was not involved in any way with the fingerprinting of the Lockerbie disaster. The recent speculation about a link between the cases is without foundation." A spokesman for the Crown Office said: "If any person said anything of this nature it was not on the authority of anyone connected with the prosecution. There was no connection between the cases and no involvement of SCRO. "As the Lord Advocate said in parliament on 22 February, the suggestion that the decision-making in the cases was in any way connected is deeply offensive to all those involved. It is entirely without foundation."

    The parallel cases McKie
    • January 1997: Marion Ross is found stabbed to death in her home in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.

    • February 1997: Four Scottish Criminal Record officers claim a rogue fingerprint at the crime scene belongs to Mckie.

    • June 1997: David Asbury, a 21-year-old joiner, is jailed for the killing. McKie denies ever visiting the crime scene.

    • February 1999: McKie is charged by police for lying during the trial.

    • 15 May,1999: McKie is cleared of perjury after two American specialists demolished the evidence of the SCRO experts.

    • December 1999: Discharged from police on medical grounds and wins her full pension.

    • September 2001 Lord Advocate claims there isn't enough evidence to press charges against the SCRO workers.

    • December 2003: McKie allowed to take civil case against Scottish Executive.

    • April 2004: Strathclyde Police demand £23,000 in legal costs after McKie's bid to sue the force fails.

    • February 2006: Scottish Executive pay £750,000 in out-of-court settlement ahead of a hearing at the court of session.

    • The Libyans confirm that they would accept a trial in a neutral country, operating under Scottish law.

    • 21 July, 1998: Britain and the US agree that the two suspects can be tried in The Hague under Scottish law.

    • 19 March, 1999: Nelson Mandela arranges for the Lockerbie suspects to be surrendered on or before 6 April.

    • April 1999: Suspects taken into Dutch custody after flying to an airbase near The Hague. Sanctions suspended.

    • February 2000: The suspects formally plead not guilty to the charges.

    May 2000: The trial begins at Kamp van Zeist, in the Netherlands.

    • 31 January, 2001: A panel of three judges unanimously find Megrahi guilty and jail him for life. Mr Fhimah is acquitted.

    • March 2002: Megrahi loses his appeal against conviction.

    • September 2003: Lawyers for Megrahi apply to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission for a review of conviction.

  • Mackay’s reasoning on McKie inquiry 8 March 2006
    Lord Mackay of Clashfern has set out the reasons and remit for a public inquiry into the Shirley McKie case, on the day MSPs are expected to vote down the proposal.

    The most distinguished lawyer of his generation, the former lord advocate and lord chancellor has written to The Herald, saying there is a lack of confidence in the use of fingerprints as a means of identification in court cases. In response to the attack from Jack McConnell that those campaigning for an inquiry are "politically-motivated", Lord Mackay says an inquiry is necessary "for the future standing of the prosecution system in Scotland".

  • Fingerprinting is key issue for a McKie inquiry 8 March 2006
    AS a former lord advocate and lord chancellor, I have been interested in the McKie case and its consequences, and I have supported the call for a public inquiry. I have done so not for any thought of political mischief-making but for the future standing of the prosecution system in Scotland. Not everyone who has called for an inquiry has the same subject matter in mind. Shirley McKie's civil claim has been settled but some appear to think that a prosecution should have been brought against those responsible for the evidence linking her with the fingerprint found inside the house. This was a matter for the decision of the lord advocate and he decided against it some considerable time ago.

    If Shirley McKie wishes to challenge that decision now, in my view the correct course is for her to apply to the court to be allowed to present a private prosecution. A public inquiry could not achieve the initiation of a prosecution. I have raised the question whether the lord advocate as the person responsible for public prosecutions in Scotland should be a member of the executive since this tends to suggest that prosecution decisions are matters for the executive. It was to make clear that this is not the position, that before devolution the lord advocate was not a member of the cabinet and that the attorney-general is still not a member of the United Kingdom cabinet. This is however a matter for debate and not for an inquiry The third issue that arises is the safety of convictions based on fingerprint evidence. This matter is vital to Scottish criminal justice in the future. The reason that Shirley McKie was acquitted was that the fingerprint evidence in her case was not accepted as justifying a conviction. This has raised considerable doubt about the practice of the Scottish Criminal Record Office in relation to fingerprint evidence which so far as I know has not been fully resolved. What I would like to see set up is an inquiry into the underlying science of fingerprint evidence and the practical application of that science to the identification of an individual. This a matter of continuing importance and it does require to be examined in a public inquiry. This would not involve the Scottish Executive in any political question but it would give an opportunity to set fingerprint evidence on a secure foundation for the future.

    Lord Mackay of Clashfern,House of Lords.

    Simply demanding justice and fair play

    I am incensed by Mr McConnell's claim that those of us demanding a public inquiry into the treatment of Shirley McKie are motivated by political considerations. This may be the way in which the first minister conducts his life but it is clear that justice and fair play are being demanded by a broad spectrum of people in Scotland including a number of those implicated in the scandal. A leading legal figure in Scotland, Derek Ogg, stated the case for an inquiry in a typically eloquent fashion in Monday's Newsnight programme. He is merely backing up the opinions expressed by other major figures within the justice body that the integrity of the Scottish legal system is being brought into doubt both at home and abroad.

    As long as the executive and its cohorts continue to stonewall the demands for a full judicial inquiry, those of us who care for proper justice will wonder what there is to hide. It is a major concern that there is a deafening silence from a huge block of Labour and Liberal MSPs. Also, while the nation's quality papers and Newsnight have been very active in pursuing developments in the McKie case, there does not appear to be the same interest from the so-called popular press. It appears to me that the executive is now using the standard New Labour tactic of toughing the situation out until the cause loses momentum. In fairness to both the Scottish justice system and the McKie family, I hope that this will not be allowed to happen. Dr William Thomson (March 6) has come up with the excellent idea of raising a petition to present to the Scottish Parliament's Petitions Committee. I am sure that if the McKies and their supporters were to raise such a petition, it would receive such unprecedented backing that even the intransigent Scottish Executive would find it difficult to ignore.

    Gordon Evans,5 York Drive, Burnside, Rutherglen.

    I AM a retired police officer. During my police career I served in the Serious Crime Squad of Strathclyde Police and the Scottish Crime Squad. Of course the demand for an investigation into the facts surrounding the sacking of Shirley McKie is political. I applaud Mr McConnell's grasp of the situation. We, the public, want to find out if those politicians involved broke the law. I find it hard to understand why no criminal investigation has been made into these matters especially when a former assistant chief constable from Tayside reported that he had found criminality at the SCRO offices in Glasgow. I can only surmise that because those involved are establishment figures, such an investigation is being blocked. This whole fiasco only strengthens my belief that those wishing to aspire to the post of chief constable and lord advocate should stand for election. Only by doing so will the public be convinced that they are serving them and not their political masters

    Alistair Watson,62 Falloch Road, Milngavie.

    IT IS a sad fact of life that taking action in our courts of law does not always promote the cause of justice, as is evidenced by the recent case involving Shirley McKie. The system rewards winners and punishes losers. However, in this particular instance consider who was the winner and who was the loser. Was it Shirley McKie who won a large sum of money in compensation for her troubles but lost the opportunity to reveal the truth, or was it Mr Boyd and Ms Jamieson who lost £750,000 of public money but won the dubious right to keep their guilty secrets hidden? And where does justice feature in all of this? Nowhere, it would seem, if left to the flawed judgment of the Scottish Executive. J W Hosea, 61 John Street, Helensburgh.

  • Why are all judges, sheriffs and advocates not seeking judicial inquiry? 6 March 2006
    They are ALL part of Scotlands legal mafia

    A McKie inquiry

    I WAS impressed and indeed moved by the letter from Iain McKie (March 4). This is a man whose entirely innocent daughter and family have suffered grievously for years at the hands of an uncaring, cynical and perhaps corrupt political establishment. Despite this, his previous letters to The Herald putting his daughter's case have always been balanced and reasonable. This time, though, his sense of frustration and justified outrage is clear for all to see, and who could blame him, after the pathetic response of the executive to the debate on Thursday? "It was an honest mistake – we have learned lessons – it's time to move on." Mr McKie rightly accuses the first minister, the justice minister and the lord advocate in this scandalous affair, and they didn't even have the common decency to say sorry. But the failure of other senior members of the executive to speak up for justice, and the total silence of most MSPs of the two coalition parties, is frankly disgraceful.

    So what should happen now? These so-called servants of the public obviously pay no attention to public opinion. My hope is that the full weight of the Scottish legal establishment will now be brought to bear. The eminent senior judges Lord McCluskey and Lord Mackay have spoken out publicly in favour of an independent inquiry. But all those in the the legal establishment must be just as appalled by this affair which is bringing the whole of the Scottish legal system into disrepute. So why are all the judges, sheriffs and advocates not speaking out now and demanding a full judicial inquiry? Surely they have a responsibility to defend the integrity of the justice system they represent, and to protect the interest of ordinary individuals against politicians and powerful vested interests?

    Iain A D Mann, 7 Kelvin Court, Glasgow.

  • Scottish legal system was "in serious doubt" 6 March 2006
    Fingerprint experts changed minds

    Two outside experts whose support for members of the fingerprint service helped spare them from prosecution over the Shirley McKie affair later changed their minds, it emerged yesterday. Peter Swann and Malcolm Graham backed four Scottish Criminal Records Office staff in their identification of a fingerprint found at a murder scene in 1997 as that of Ms McKie. Ms McKie, then a Strathclyde police officer, denied that the print was hers, was tried for perjury and acquitted, and last month won a £750,000 compensation payout from the Scottish Executive.

    In 2000, an investigation by James Mackay, then deputy chief constable of Tayside, concluded that SCRO staff were guilty of "cover-up and criminality" in presenting the print as McKie's. Colin Boyd, the lord advocate, decided not to prosecute them, partly because Mr Swann and Mr Graham had backed the SCRO identification. The Sunday Herald reported yesterday that Mr Swann now disagrees with the SCRO's interpretation of the print, while Mr Graham admitted in a letter to the McKie family that he had made "a terrible mistake".

    It also emerged that Mr Boyd was unaware of doubts within the SCRO about the McKie print when he decided not to prosecute. Nicola Sturgeon, SNP Holyrood leader, said that the case for a public inquiry was now overwhelming. "Ms McKie deserves justice, and the people of Scotland deserve answers," she said. "No-one who has nothing to hide has anything to fear from the truth being told. "Ministers must now abandon their head-in-the-sand attitude and instigate a full public inquiry." Hans Kochler, a UN observer at the Lockerbie trial, also called for an inquiry yesterday, saying many international lawyers now felt the integrity of the Scottish legal system was "in serious doubt". The executive said it saw no merit in a public inquiry.

  • Finger points to McKie experts 5 March 2006
    A CRUCIAL document at the heart of the Shirley McKie investigation was not signed off personally by all of the fingerprint experts working on the case. Evidence obtained by The Sunday Times raises fresh doubts over the way fingerprint evidence was handled in the case and has prompted renewed calls for a public inquiry into the affair. Records show that experts at the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) signed documents on behalf of colleagues and highlight apparent discrepancies over when evidence was collected.

    Politicians and senior legal figures claim the documents reveal new evidence of sloppy practices at the SCRO and cast further doubt on claims by ministers that the affair was the result of a single “honest” mistake. The Sunday Times has obtained a copy of the original photograph of the fingerprint, originally believed to be McKie’s, found at the home of the murdered spinster Marion Ross. The print was used as evidence in McKie’s trial, in which she was later cleared of perjury. Under SCRO rules, at least four fingerprint experts were required to make a “positive” identification. However the photograph reveals that one of the experts, Fiona McBride, initialled the print on behalf of her colleagues Charles Stewart and Hugh MacPherson. A fourth expert, Anthony McKenna, signed his own initial on the document.

    The SCRO yesterday insisted that it was common for experts to sign on behalf of colleagues — a practice now banned — and did not mean that Stewart and MacPherson had not witnessed and identified the print. McBride’s own signature, and those she made on behalf of her colleagues, were dated February 11, 1997 on the document. However, an investigation in 2000 by a team led by James Mackay, the former deputy chief constable of Tayside police, asserted that McBride had not been shown the print until February 12. Yesterday McBride challenged the accuracy of Mackay’s findings, claiming he must have been mistaken. However campaigners insisted the new evidence provided further ammunition for a public inquiry. “We need to know exactly what was going on when these productions were being presented. It is clear that even within SCRO there were misgivings about the identification,” said Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National party.

    Derek Ogg QC, the chairman of the Scottish criminal bar association, said the SCRO officers’ actions seemed to represent “a surprising departure from normal procedures”. McKie, 43, a former detective constable, was involved in an investigation into the murder of Ross, 51, at her home in Kilmarnock in 1997. She received £750,000 compensation after fighting allegations that she had been inside Ross’s home.

    A paper produced for an external police inquiry indicates that MacPherson may have been the only SCRO officer to check the print before Detective Chief Inspector Heath, the officer in charge, was told the print belonged to McKie. Mackay’s report claims “an unbelievable attitude” among the experts that was “designed to protect reputations, irrespective of the impact on others”. Last night McBride said: “I distinctly remember being asked by Hugh to look at (the print). It’s simply not true that it was phoned through by him alone. The Tayside police report appears to be wrong.” A spokeswoman for the SCRO declined to comment.

  • Dispute over Mackay's account of McKie affair 5 March 2006
    I WRITE with regard to your article last week on the Shirley McKie fingerprint case, and in particular the passage which relates to myself. I have never had the opportunity to read the Mackay Report, but strongly dispute the part quoted by yourselves in the Mackay Report where I make some sort of admission that if the original identification by SCRO is wrong, then I accept that I am wrong. If that is indeed in the Mackay Report, then it raises issues about the accuracy of the report and the conclusions Mr Mackay has drawn from his perceptions.

    I was interviewed three times by officers from Tayside Police, but never intended at any time to give them that impression. I was also interviewed in 2001 by Mr Gilchrist, the procurator fiscal at Paisley, who I understood was re-interviewing the people who had already been interviewed by Tayside Police. I was also given sight of the illustrations prepared by Mr Werheim and the National Fingerprint Training Centre at Durham. Perhaps Mr Gilchrist was more objective in his assessment of the evidence than Mr Mackay. I was due to give evidence for the Scottish Ministers at the Court of Session last month before it was settled in a disgraceful manner.

    Malcolm Graham, Edinburgh

    LIKE your correspondent Mr Watson (Letters, February 26) I am a retired police officer, and like many others am understandably concerned that the McKie case is doing untold damage to our justice system. There has to be a full judicial public enquiry which must start with examination of the original case. What was it about the unidentified fingerprint at the crime scene that led to this "mistake"? Why did they try to pressure Shirley to admit it was hers? There were obviously concerns on the part of the Crown and the investigating officer re the print? Was this covered in Jim Mackay's review? If not, why not?

    Jimmy Waugh, Ballachulish

    IT WOULD appear now beyond all doubt that it is time for the First Minister, the Justice Minister and the Lord Advocate to get cracking with their buckets of soapy water and Chamois leathers and clean the fog from the windows of their 'alleged' transparent house! However, they should be well warned to be careful not to trip over any whitewash buckets that may have been left lying about in anticipation.

    I also see that the Justice Minister has latched on to those feeble and now meaningless words of one Tony Blair: "We must move on" - nowadays usually taken to mean 'guilty' of whatever the particular charge of the day is, no matter the problem. The future is already looking vastly more interesting than hitherto!

    Victor Smith, Balintore

  • UN law expert joins calls for McKie probe 5 March 2006
    A LEADING critic of the Lockerbie trial has become the latest figure to call for a judicial inquiry into the Shirley McKie case, amid claims by police, forensic experts and senior legal figures that the scandal has led to a massive crisis of confidence in the Scottish justice system. Hans Kochler, president of the International Progress Organisation, who was appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as one of two international observers for the Lockerbie trial, said a full public inquiry was the only way to restore faith in the process of law in Scotland.

    It follows the publication of a secret report by one of the country's top police officers, which accused Scotland's fingerprint service, the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO), of "unbelievable...arrogance...and complacency" in which reputations of officials were put before the course of justice. Kochler warned that the refusal of ministers to reveal the facts behind the McKie case was now damaging Scottish justice's international reputation even further. "There is now a growing body of opinion among international lawyers and international experts that the integrity of the Scottish criminal justice system is in serious doubt," he said.

    The report, by former deputy chief constable of Tayside Police, James Mackay, accuses fingerprint experts of manipulating evidence and covering up errors after they had wrongly identifying Detective Constable Shirley McKie as having been present at a crime scene. Police and forensic experts not connected with the scandal believe the mistakes were covered up because admitting to the errors would leave them open to further scandal. Kochler added: "It seems very clear to an external and impartial observer that if you have experts who investigate forensic evidence and crime scenes and their evidence is shown to be unreliable, you have a problem.

    "If after scrupulous investigation, as in this case, that error appears to be subject to manipulation, cover-up and collusion then the problem is much more deep-rooted." Kochler warned that the case had raised doubts about the position of the Lord Advocate in Scotland, who sits in the Scottish Cabinet while deciding on prosecutions in the public's name. He said: "It seems the system fails to maintain the separation of powers it lays claim to between the government, the state prosecutor and the judiciary. From my role as an observer, I formed the view that in the UK, the establishment and the power behind the establishment can influence judicial matters in a way that is impossible elsewhere."

    The question marks over the affair are now being aired within Scotland's justice system. One senior source close to the Mackay investigation said: "It is a source of some frustration and anger among police officers and forensic examiners, who have done their jobs professionally, with honesty and integrity, that the Crown and Executive have failed to take appropriate action." Another fingerprint expert added: "Those fingerprint experts who work outside the SCRO office are getting increasingly frustrated at being tarred with the same brush." Lawyers added that the effects of the affair had now seeped into the way trials were being conducted. Jim Keegan, one of Scotland's busiest solicitor-advocates, said: "Over the past year or so, the suspicion has grown that there are chronic problems at the SCRO and that everything they handle has to be heavily scrutinised."

    He added: "In a drugs case I defended, my client was acquitted even though his fingerprint was found on the outside of a bag containing drugs. The marking-up of the print was a shambles and no one could have followed it. However, our expert confirmed the print had been correctly identified. Despite this, the jury, perhaps aware of doubts about the calibre of the Crown case, acquitted." QC Donald Findlay, who defended McKie in her perjury trial in 1999, added: "Fingerprint evidence used to be considered as sacrosanct. Now I would be more inclined to challenge it. For all we know, people may have been convicted wrongly on fingerprint evidence, and that is an appalling business," he added.

    In a speech to his party's National Council in Perth yesterday, SNP leader Alex Salmond said: "The issues raised by the fingerprint scandal are 10 times as important to the future of Scotland as those that led to the Holyrood inquiry." "The issues in the McKie case go right to the heart of the justice system in Scotland." Ministers insist they will not budge and say the justice system has cleaned up its act since the first events of the McKie affair, now nearly nine years old.

  • Prosecutor unaware of doubts over McKie case 5 March 2006
    Boyd has NEVER prosecuted a crooked lawyer from evidence of the public only when his masonic pals at the Law Society of Scotland wanted action against a lawyer who bucked their corrupt system.

    Prosecutor unaware of doubts over McKie case

    LORD Advocate Colin Boyd prosecuted Shirley McKie without being informed that doubts about her guilt had already been raised within Scotland's fingerprint service, Scotland on Sunday can reveal. Boyd has admitted that when he brought charges against McKie, he was not told at least two staff within the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) had failed to back supposedly irrefutable proof she had left her print at a crime scene. McKie stood trial for perjury in 1999 but was acquitted and recently awarded a £750,000 out-of-court settlement by the Scottish Executive. Demands are continuing to grow for a public inquiry into the case.

    Scotland on Sunday revealed last week that several fingerprint experts at SCRO failed positively to identify McKie's print, only for their views to be ignored. A report into the affair by James Mackay, deputy Chief Constable of Tayside police, later concluded that McKie's print "was disputed from the outset". Boyd ordered an inquiry into what the Crown Office knew about disagreement within the SCRO at the time. In a letter to Nationalist MSP Fergus Ewing, Boyd now claims that he was "not aware" of these views at the time and only discovered them 18 months after McKie had been cleared.

    McKie's father, Iain, last night said the new revelations posed further worrying questions over the competence of Scotland's justice system. "The decision to prosecute was taken without knowledge of all the evidence," he said. "That is a very serious admission to make as the police have an obligation to inform the Crown office of all evidence that has occurred. "The Crown Office were very quick to prosecute in Shirley's case. It now has been shown that their grounds for doing so have become less and less convincing."

    The new revelations come with ministers still refusing to countenance a public inquiry into the affair, despite calls from all sides of the political and legal spectrum. They insist the problems at the SCRO have been dealt with and that a further inquiry would serve little point. Boyd made his admission of ignorance in a letter to Ewing, who had demanded to know whether the Lord Advocate had been aware of a 'blind test' carried out in February 1997 by four SCRO experts on McKie's print.

    McKie had already been identified by a senior expert, but two of the 'blind test' experts were unable to provide the same guarantees. Boyd was forced to issue an internal inquiry of his own in order to find out exactly what the Crown Office knew of the case. In a letter to Ewing, he declared: "I am satisfied that the Crown was not aware of the blind testing . . . until the submission of the Mackay report in October 2000."

    Boyd also claims in the letter - contrary to Mackay's report - that "none of the experts were in disagreement" over the print. He argues that the two officers who had failed to make a match did so because they were not given the right conditions to do so. Ewing last night said that Boyd's reply had raised more questions than answers.

    He said: "If the Lord Advocate thinks that the SCRO processes were properly carried out, why on earth was three-quarters of a million of taxpayers cash paid out?" He added: "This latest event in the McKie case simply raises yet more questions, and highlights the need for an inquiry to be conducted by a judge. None of the reports or investigations has yet explained how and why there were two mistaken identifications of prints in the one case."

  • Unjustified protection 27 February 2006
    In this country, a person seeking to establish the truth and seek redress for a wrongful act faces two barriers. First, any complaint will be investigated by the institution itself through self-regulation. And, secondly, the institution is given legal protection/privileges.

    To obtain compensation proving negligence is not enough - an "honest mistake" is a complete defence to an institution. An individual can only succeed by proving "malice", evidence of which is often hard to come by. In the McKie case, if all that happened was the result of an "honest mistake", why has the Executive paid out? Either it has doubts, in which case a public inquiry is essential to establish the truth, or the system is so unjust to an individual that an ex gratia payment was in order, in which case we need a public inquiry to recommend appropriate change, correct the current imbalance and ensure a fairer system in the future.

    GORDON COUTTS THOMSON, High Street, Kingussie, Inverness-shire

    McKie case has cast a dark shadow over the integrity of the whole Scottish justice system.

    The Shirley McKie affair

    An independent judicial inquiry is essential

    IN A nasty jibe during his Scottish Labour Conference speech, Tony Blair branded the Liberal Democrats as craven opportunists, always happy to take the easy option and the credit but never the tough decisions. Well, here's one tough decision I suggest they take immediately — tell their coalition partners at Holyrood that they will suspend the partnership forthwith, unless a public inquiry is set up into all aspects of the Shirley McKie affair. For the LibDems this should be a matter of fundamental principle, of far greater importance than short-term political advantage. They must know that this disturbing case has cast a dark shadow over the integrity of the whole Scottish justice system.

    I'm sure most of your readers are as appalled as I am at the astonishingly arrogant behaviour of the Labour-controlled executive. Aided and abetted by what now appears to be a highly-politicised legal establishment, they seem determined to cover up possible wrongdoing by a few government employees. In view of all the obstruction and obfuscation over several years, it is now essential that an independent judicial inquiry is set up to examine all the evidence. It's not the "honest mistake" that matters, it's what went on thereafter, right up to the last-minute financial deal which prevented the evidence being heard in court. Readers don't need to be reminded of the many questions that still remain unanswered, not least the role of the lord advocate in deciding who and who not to prosecute in the criminal courts, and what reports to keep secret from the public that paid for them. I hope that the media and all honest politicians (another oxymoron?) will not let this matter rest until all the facts have been placed in the public domain by an independent inquiry. The McKies and the Scottish Criminal Record Office experts both want this, so what has anyone got to fear?

    Iain A D Mann, 7 Kelvin Court, Glasgow.

    IN 1965 a policeman clipped a youngster on the ear and was not prosecuted. So great was the public concern that a judicial inquiry was instituted – the Thurso Boy Inquiry, the most celebrated judicial inquiry of its time. How much more important is the need for an inquiry into the SCRO. As Lord McCluskey points out elsewhere, the chance of a mistaken fingerprint is given by experts as "billions to one" against. In eight years the SCRO have made three known mistakes, two in the McKie case and one in the case of Sinclair at the Ayr circuit of September 2003. We cannot "move on" as the justice minister would have us. This is too important. The SCRO stand alone in the world as having made mistakes which they themselves say are mathematically impossible. The very arteries of justice are being clogged. This is nothing to do with politics. Why cannot we have an inquiry, as was held in 1965?

    Ian Hamilton, QC, Lochnabeithe, North Connel, Argyll.

    THE reason the furore over the McKie case will not go away is this. In this sorry affair, there is one clearly innocent party, McKie, and at least one but probably two or more guilty parties, most likely employees of SCRO. Despite that fact, the senior law officer of this country was provided with, allegedly, enough evidence to prosecute the innocent but provided with, allegedly, not enough evidence to prosecute the guilty. The real scandal of course is that all of the evidence emanated from within the Scottish criminal justice system.

    The public are not daft, they simply want to know how this was possible, to see the guilty rooted out of the Scottish criminal justice system and brought to justice, and finally to be given confidence that such an event can never happen again. If the justice minister and the lord advocate cannot see this, then Jack McConnell should ask them to step aside and find replacements with vision who have the determination to carry out the will of the people.

    Aidan McLaughlin, 20 Ledi Road, Glasgow.

    Unanswered questions in the McKie case

    THE Scottish Executive's policy of stonewalling demands for a public judicial inquiry into the McKie affair has left too many unanswered questions. Here are just a few. 1. Harry Bell (then head of the SCRO) tried to rubbish embarrassing conclusions of international experts on the McKie print, by claiming their judgment relied on inferior internet images, but refused to release his, of supposedly higher quality. Why the secrecy?
    2. Did someone from SCRO instigate the pernicious attempt by FBI agents to warn off two US experts, David Grieve and Pat Wertheim, from giving evidence for McKie's defence?
    3. Colin Boyd, the lord advocate, recently rubbished international experts more subtly, by implying that all fingerprint experts are prone to disagree. His new-found distrust of fingerprint evidence lumps together those with little standing and eminent practitioners. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary called in two such "established and senior experts," who concluded unequivocally and independently that SCRO were wrong; the disputed mark was not made by McKie. Not surprisingly, SCRO disagreed, but more to the point, did Colin Boyd accept the HMIC findings in 2000?
    4. That same year, Arie Zeelenberg and Torger Rudrud attended a SCRO presentation alleging 45 points of McKie print agreement, way beyond the 16 SCRO had in use as an ident criterion. The Dutch and Norwegian experts concluded that the 45 total was spuriously inflated, by, inter alia, confusing the print with wood grain from an internal door frame. Do SCRO stand by their "Disneyland" total? If not, why not? Curiously, Harry Bell's once pristine print was now described as "blurred and cropped".
    5. We now know much more about SCRO's 1997 sloppy methodology in homing in on McKie. Pressure to suck up to the goals of superiors seems to have been combined with lax procedures for ensuring independent conclusions. How much pressure came from Strathclyde Police? Kathleen Ryall (Letters, February 23) says SCRO staff have not had their say. That is untrue. Three of the four had their day in court at McKie's trial. They had their chance to open up candidly to Mackay and Robertson, but presented the police investigators with "no comments". Two Sunday Herald reports (February 12/19) quote top-notch fingerprint experts presenting a wealth of evidence against the SCRO that can't be brushed under the carpet as equivalent experts disagreeing.
    6. The lord advocate was in something of a lather to shelve the Mackay and Robertson conclusions, pointing firmly to conspiracy. Given the serious nature of the potential charges, why was he not sufficiently aghast to insist on a more in-depth follow-up investigation? Key SCRO computers could have been seized. It now appears that non-compliant SCRO staff were quizzed to find out whether they were pressed to toe the SCRO party line, and why they did not subscribe to the McKie identification. So, was the temptation for Boyd to "close the SCRO patient up" because the cancer had apparently spread too far within the organisation? Whatever the reason, his failure to address the "disease" should lead him to consider the honourable course of resigning.
    7. Will Cathy Jamieson's makeover of SCRO include a searching attainment test of competence for suspect SCRO fingerprint personnel? The McKie print could be slipped into this examination to determine how repeatable their earlier analyses are. If the justice minister thinks a simple reshuffle of the same pack under a different brand name will quell public disquiet, she'd better think again. How is it possible to, in her trite words, "learn lessons from the past" without knowing precisely what went wrong?

    Iain McKie claims to have further evidence of wrongdoing, but that would have to be cast-iron, and leaked in its entirety to the press, to spur Colin Boyd into reluctant action. The executive have tainted the whole Scottish justice system in their desire to cover their own backs, and have undermined the international science of fingerprinting by lumping together the eminent and the fallible. Freud wisely concluded that dark secrets will bubble inexorably to the surface. The more the executive tries to keep a tight lid on Scotland's disgrace, the harder it will prove to do so.

    Dr J R Calder, 52 Ulster Crescent, Edinburgh.

    No wonder the executive wants the facts hidden

    FINGERPRINT analysis, like any other form of pattern recognition, is an art requiring human judgment. No two human fingertips are the same, but the scope for broad similarity is enormous. The easiest way to compare two images is therefore to look for differences between them — if there aren't any, or if those that seem to exist are negligible and/or explained by contingent factors like weight of impression, then you have a probable match. The more variations there are, the likelier it is that you've got nothing. It's not an easy job, which is why you need experts to do it — but in principle it's like those picture puzzles where one of the footballers in panel two is missing a stripe from his jumper and another guy is wearing the wrong colour of socks.

    What seems to have happened in the Ross/Asbury/McKie debacle, though, is that at some point between A Study in Scarlet and the mid-1990s, somebody somewhere decided that Olympic-level spot-the-difference was too "unscientific" and "subjective" a method of comparison, and set out to devise a more mechanistic system which could be easily promulgated without relying on exceptional talent. As a consequence, the current generation of analysts at the SCRO were trained instead to look for a certain quota of positive correlations, so that 16 or 32 "points of similarity" is considered a match. That is a much lower standard of proof, and many people convicted under it might have walked free if the more stringent method of comparison had been used instead — or even if the jury had been aware of the degraded nature of the "expertise" employed.

    No wonder the Scottish Executive didn't want the facts examined in open court. No wonder it still resists calls from all sides for a public inquiry. What proportion of criminal trials over the past half-century would have to be reopened if it admitted that its fingerprint analysis system was less reliable than the public had been led to believe? But that's not the worst of it. No commentator has yet pointed out that the technology involved in the UK government's identity-card scheme is based on the same "points of similarity" principle, and that every person in the UK is soon to be attributed a "unique biometric profile" just as reliable as the SCRO's identification of the unfortunate Ms McKie.

    Will Pickering, 86 Grange Tower, Motherwell.

  • Police determined to back descredited fingerprint bureau 27 February 2006
    McKie calls for fresh inquiry into Ross murder

    SIR William Rae, chief constable of Strathclyde, will today be asked to a meeting by Iain McKie, who will demand that detectives be brought in from outside Scotland to reopen the Marion Ross murder case which ruined his daughter's police career. After another weekend of revelations about the nine-year saga there is no sign of the political storm surrounding the case dying down, with the list of those demanding fresh inquiries including leading lawyers and retired judges. A damning independent police report into the behaviour of the Scottish Criminal Record Office has now been fully leaked; evidence that Jim Wallace, the former justice minister, was told about concerns over the SCRO has been produced; it was claimed that, at the eleventh hour, police asked for a gagging clause to be put on Shirley McKie's £750,000 award; and another man has been named in the media as having carried out the murder for which David Asbury was convicted then cleared on appeal.

    Mr McKie said that the lord advocate's handling of the case and the SCRO's behaviour had to come under independent scrutiny, and that an investigation into the murder in Kilmarnock, in 1997, must be carried out by police from outside Scotland. He said: "I have respect for Willie Rae and he has been most honest and responsible. There has to be a fresh murder investigation and it can only be carried out by a force from outside Scotland. "As for a wider inquiry into what happened, this is even more pressing than in the case of (Surjit Singh) Chhokar (who was murdered in 1998) because it is not just about the decisions of the lord advocate, but about senior ministers and the whole hierarchy of the police in Scotland who have been determined to back the SCRO."

  • SCRO Whistleblower was bullied, intimidated, harassed and victimised 27 February 2006
    Ministers were warned about SCRO failings

    MINISTERS have been implicated in the Shirley McKie affair for the first time after evidence emerged that they were warned of "mismanagement and malpractice" at the Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO) five years ago. The Sunday Times has obtained documents that reveal that Jim Wallace, the former justice minister, was warned in August 2001 that proper "ethical" procedures were not being followed within the SCRO and that the views of those who challenged the prevailing methods were "suppressed". An official complaint, alleging "institutionalised arrogance and mismanagement" within the SCRO, was lodged but later removed from the organisation’s files with no action taken, it was claimed.

    A whistleblower within the organisation wrote to Wallace, warning that after raising concerns with senior management he had become a victim of "bullying, intimidation, harassment and victimisation". The letter was addressed to Wallace’s constituency office in Orkney and a copy sent to Colin Boyd, the lord advocate. Jenny Deans, Wallace’s constituency secretary, replied, confirming that the allegations would be investigated. "He [Wallace] has noted the serious issues you raise," went her response. "As this matter falls within his ministerial responsibilities, he has asked his department to look into these issues and he will respond to you in due course." However, that was the last the whistleblower is said to have heard about the matter from Wallace. A response from the Crown Office stated: "The issues you raise concerning working practices at SCRO are, more properly, addressed to the justice department at the Scottish executive." The documents provide the first evidence that ministers knew about, and investigated, working practices at the SCRO. It was a misidentified fingerprint by SCRO staff that led to McKie being charged and subsequently acquitted of perjury in 1999.

    The emergence of the documents follows the disclosure that ministers were warned in 2000 of "cover-up and criminality" among SCRO staff in a secret report by James Mackay, then deputy chief constable of Tayside police. Ministers have justified not acting on the warnings because they were a matter for the lord advocate, who decided there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution. Last week Jack McConnell, the first minister, and Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, again refused to accede to demands for a public inquiry. However, opposition politicians said the new documents provide the most compelling evidence yet of the involvement of ministers in the affair and make the case for an inquiry irresistible. "This shows that in addition to the conclusions of the Mackay report suggesting cover-up and criminality, that Jim Wallace had indications from within the SCRO of bullying, intimidation and poor practice," said Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National party. Alex Neil, the nationalist MSP and McKie supporter, said: "These letters bring Jim Wallace into the frame. As the minister for justice he was obviously very complacent about the letter sent to him by the fingerprint expert. Certainly he and the lord advocate have a lot to answer for. It is quite obvious that Jim Wallace and Colin Boyd don’t want a public inquiry because it will expose their failings as ministers. These letters make it absolutely clear that their failings were major.”

    A source close to Wallace said: “Jim Wallace has no immediate recollection of this letter, but if The Sunday Times is willing to share the details he is happy to immediately raise this issue with civil servants in the Scottish executive to follow up what are clearly significant points.” A spokesman for the Scottish executive said the SCRO fingerprint bureau had been subject to “detailed, rigorous and thorough independent review” in February 2000. A follow-up inspection report in May 2001 by HMIC had recorded that the SCRO had made a wide-ranging response and achieved significant progress to the extent that as a whole HMIC considered it to be “efficient and effective”.

  • Murder case officer wanted McKie gagged 26 February 2006
    Murder case officer wanted McKie paid off and ‘gagged’ to end fingerprint row

    THE police officer in charge of the Marion Ross murder inves tigation wanted Shirley McKie paid off and “gagged” by the Scottish Executive, the Sunday Herald can reveal. Documents seen by the Sunday Herald show that detective superintendent Ste phen Heath raised in January the prospect of ministers giving McKie “sufficient compensation” to stop her legal case going ahead and placing a “gagging order” on her. Heath, who led the inquiry into the Ross murder in 1997, also admits in the papers that he and other more senior officers were “very concerned” and “stressed” about the hearing at the Court of Session being allowed to take place.

    The extraordinary remarks, contained in Heath’s confidential precognition, taken by law yers acting for Shirley McKie and dated just days before her case was due to start earlier this month, provide the first insight into the desperation that exists in the police for the controversy to be settled and buried. They also raised new questions over the police role , which led to allegations of “criminality and cover up” among fingerprint experts at the Scottish Criminal Rec ord Office .

    Their forensic evidence led to the jailing of 20-year-old joiner David Asbury for the murder. He was freed in 2000 after international fingerprint experts said their identification was “unsafe”. The revelations come days after it emerged a secret police log revealed convicted murderer Patrick Doch erty had claimed responsibility for the killing. Last night, Shirley McKie’s father Iain condemned Heath and called for the Ross murder to be re-investigated by an outside force. He added that there should be an investigation into the initial police probe “as a matter of urgency”.

  • How justice failed in fingerprint scandal 26 February 2006
    FOR nine long years, the truth over what happened in the Shirley McKie fingerprint case has been hidden from view by the Scottish state: by police chiefs, lawyers and government ministers(AND TO A LARGE EXTENT THE PRESS AND MEDIA). Today, that truth can finally be revealed. Scotland on Sunday has obtained the 58-page report by former Tayside deputy chief constable James Mackay into exactly how, in 1997, the then detective constable McKie was wrongly identified as having left her fingerprint at a murder scene. Based on 301 witness statements and 795 documents, the report reveals staggering malpractice at the heart of a major justice institution, the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO). It asserts that fingerprint personnel in the SCRO must have known they were in the wrong even when they were standing by their flimsy evidence. Devastatingly, it suggests that they were willing to take McKie to court, and jail her if necessary, to protect their reputations.

    The scandal began a month after the body of a 51-year-old bank clerk, Marion Ross, had been discovered in her home in Kilmarnock. McKie, then with Strathclyde Police, had been brought in to assist in the murder investigation. In the house, a fingerprint had been discovered on the door frame of Ross's bathroom, near the body. On Monday, February 10, 1997, for the first time, that print was linked to McKie. The Mackay report offers a front-row insight into the events that followed. The link to McKie that day was made by a middle-ranking expert at the SCRO, who was among those checking prints at the murder scene. The expert could only find 10 so-called points of comparison between the print and McKie's. This was insufficient to stand up in court, as fingerprint experts need to find 16 such matches for it to be deemed copper-bottomed evidence. Only when the expert reported to his senior officer did the evidence begin to firm up. That more experienced officer, who also examined the print, found the required 16 points. What he needed now was for his colleagues to back him up. The Mackay report discloses what happened next. "The senior expert pointed out that it was an important mark and suggested that, in this instance, it would be beneficial if 16 points could be found by the expert second-checking it. The witness indicated [that] he was unable to achieve 16 points and suggested getting someone else." In other words, the SCRO appears to have canvassed around in order to find the secondary evidence they needed. It only took until the following day, February 11, when no fewer than four other SCRO analysts corroborated the senior expert's findings. The less convincing evidence of the first expert had apparently been forgotten. These four experts, also middle-ranking members of staff, were to play a central role in the events which followed.

    On February 14, McKie was told for the first time that she had been identified as having left her mark on the crime scene. The consequences would have been devastating. McKie had already been involved in a previous incident, when her fingerprints had been found on a polythene bag in 1993 at a crime scene. She was facing the end of her career. The SCRO were thus placed under pressure from Strathclyde Police to prove beyond any doubt they had got it right. Mackay reveals how, on February 18, the deputy head of the fingerprint bureau was summoned to the SCRO director's office and "lectured to in a 'threatening tone' indicating that the identification had better be correct and that an officer's career was at stake". Both the deputy head and the SCRO's quality assurance manager themselves checked the mark, and pronounced themselves satisfied. But the Mackay report reveals how - for the second time - those who did not agree were ignored. That evening, Mackay recounts, "a number of on-duty experts [four in total] were asked to examine the mark by way of a blind test... one witness was able to find about eight points of comparison... his feeling at the time was that the mark was the same as the elimination [McKie's print] although it was not sufficient for an identification for court purposes. Another recalls spending five minutes looking at [the print] and finding 10 points of comparison, which was enough to eliminate [McKie]... two other experts who took part found difficulty in identifying characteristics and asked for more time. They were not shown the mark again."

    Twice then - by the original expert and by three of the four analysts in the blind test - doubts had been cast over whether the print was McKie's. But the investigation against her began anyway. That May she gave evidence in the trial of the man accused of Ross's murder, David Asbury, and again insisted the print was not hers. In March 1998, she was arrested for perjury. Mackay's 2000 investigation into the case was prompted after McKie was cleared in a perjury trial - following evidence by two American experts showing that the SCRO had got it wrong. At the trial it emerged that none of the 32 police officers who guarded the crime scene reported McKie's presence. Mackay's probe was now to shed astonishing light on just how determined senior officials were to cover up their mistakes. There was no doubting the fact that it was not McKie's print. Mackay discloses how he sent the original material - including the door frame in the Ross house - to the National Fingerprint Training Centre in Durham. Their conclusions, revealed today, are shocking. Of the four personnel who had corroborated the McKie print, the Durham experts declared: "Given the inferior quality of their productions for court presentation, we have grave doubts that the examinations conducted by the four persons were carried out totally independently; a process which is paramount to the integrity of all identifications. Without adequate explanation, there appears to be collective manipulation of evidence and collective collusion to erroneously identify Shirley McKie." This claim, made in the summer of 2000, was the first time anyone had suggested collusion. It appears to have opened Mackay's eyes - the condemnatory language of his final analysis was described by one fingerprint expert yesterday as "just amazing."

    Mackay's conclusion is that the McKie case had shown up a culture of fear and rigid hierarchy within the SCRO, which put concerns about legitimacy below the desire to be seen to be backing the boss. "Junior staff at the SCRO appear to ingratiate themselves to senior experts," Mackay declares. "The hierarchical situation pervaded in the SCRO, with a senior expert making the initial identification and making initial judgments prior to his 'juniors' viewing the prints... Evidence indicates that should another junior expert fail to support his identification to the 16-point standard, then another expert prepared to confirm the identification would be utilised to do so. This, combined with a lack of quality control and a clear independence between experts, is the catalyst [for the mistakes]." Mackay declares his astonishment that, as the perjury case against McKie was being brought, no one at the SCRO was prepared to admit their mistakes. In perhaps the most savage of his comments, he notes: "The fact remains that errors occurred which should have been discovered at an early stage. However, an unbelievable attitude prevailed among the experts involved which ignored the consequences and was designed to protect reputations, irrespective of the impact on others."

    Mackay was particularly staggered by a presentation given by two senior SCRO staff in August 2000 at which they had attempted to prove not just 16 but 45 matches in the McKie print. "They remain arrogant and obdurate...the apparent deception incredibly continues despite the overwhelming evidence, both SCRO representatives vehemently adhere to their assertion." The refusal to admit mistakes, led, he concludes, to "a criminal course of action which disregarded the consequences and the impact on others". He declares: "There is a weight of opinion that suggests the errors must have been discovered by the time the evidence was being checked and re-checked and thereafter marked up for court." One anecdote sheds particular light on this. "In an adjournment of the Shirley McKie trial, two SCRO experts were seen in heated discussion at a stage when one had given evidence and one had not," Mackay writes. What were they discussing? Why did this all happen? Fingerprint experts not connected to the SCRO now believe that the organisation's decision not to own up was a direct result of a wider fear that if McKie's print had been shown to be in error, so would a print of Marion Ross's which had been 'found' at the home of David Asbury. One fingerprint source said: "When it emerged that Shirley's print was wrong, they couldn't admit that, because then the whole case would have been peer-reviewed and it would have emerged that Asbury's mark was wrong as well." As everyone now knows, the Ross print was wrong. Asbury was convicted of the murder but acquitted on appeal in August 2000. Mackay writes: "It is the obdurate and arrogant stance which has prevailed through the chain of events, contributing in the conviction of David Asbury and the prosecution of Shirley McKie, which transferred both misidentifications from an error status to a criminal act with dire consequences." There are those who have sought to suggest the McKie case is an isolated one. But Scotland on Sunday has obtained evidence which suggests that the problems which triggered this mistake were endemic. A minute of a meeting of SCRO experts from 1995 reveals the worry of staff at the pressure being exerted upon them. "Concern was shown by the group over the question of persons' names being taken over not signing an identification; ie not seeing 16 characteristics when supervisors do."

    Among those attending the meeting was Fiona McBride, one of the four experts who corroborated the McKie print in 2000. She claims not to recall the 1995 meeting, and denies having been put under pressure by her superiors. Others, under the cloak of anonymity, do not. Scotland on Sunday has been passed a letter sent to the then Justice Minister Jim Wallace in 2001 by a former expert at the SCRO, who declared: "I was shocked and appalled at the level of malpractice." The expert added: "I soon became a victim of bullying, intimidation, harassment and victimisation." The full weight of Mackay's words - no less devastating for being five years old - will now lead to major questions being asked of those government officials to whom his words were addressed, and of the current Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson. At the forefront is the Lord Advocate Colin Boyd, who read the report in 2001, and concluded that, despite Mackay's findings, there was not enough evidence to bring forward a prosecution against the SCRO officers involved. Boyd told the Scottish Parliament last week that his decision was based on "conflicting positions on identification of the relevant fingerprint evidence". Yet apart from the SCRO, only one person - a fingerprint expert called Peter Swann - is still insistent that it was McKie's print. The evidence of another expert, Malcolm Graham, is negated in the Mackay report by an admission that if "the original identification [by SCRO] is wrong, then he accepts that he was". Ministers say they have moved on and the SCRO has improved. But doubts over prosecutions based on fingerprint evidence are mounting. This newspaper understands that an appeal is planned in the case of Dominic Ferrie, who received a life sentence in 2002 for his role in the killing of David James in Wishaw in 2001, based on print evidence found at the crime scene. The past is catching up with Scottish ministers and law officers. Their futures, and the future of the entire Scottish legal system, are at stake.

  • McKie case smacks of masonic conspiracy 26 February 2006
    The coverup, collusion and criminality in the fingerprint scandal inplicating Shirley McKie has all the hallmarks of a masonic conspiracy. Our group have long known the part secret societies have in interfering with justice in both civil and criminal cases in Scotland and throughout the UK.

    Most, if not all, judicial hearings are tainted with the stench of freemasonry. The UK media NEVER make that connection, instead they produce weird and wonderful theories to explain away what ultimately is behind the McKie cover up.

    Along with Shipman, Huntley and Hamilton some of the most horrific crimes that failed to get the correct police attention is largely due to that evil influence. Its main function to thwart and distract attention from the real TRUTH. Masonic controllers are embedded in the most senior positions of the legal structures of UK law enforcement allowing major human rights abuses to take place daily throughout the UK court system with impunity.
    New blow to Executive in McKie case 26 February 2006
    ONE of the Scottish Parliament’s most powerful committees has written to the Executive this weekend demanding a series of answers on the Shirley McKie affair. The news will come as a blow to First Minister Jack McConnell and Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson, who had hoped they’d drawn a line under the matter last week. The letter, to Ms Jamieson, follows a meeting of the Justice 1 Committee on Wednesday, when they considered issues relating to the Scottish Criminal Record Office and the Scottish Fingerprint Service following the settlement of the McKie case earlier this month.

    £50,000 pledged

    It comes as Ms McKie’s father Iain disclosed that up to £50,000 has already been pledged to support a fighting fund for a private prosecution of the Scottish Criminal Records Office staff involved in the case. He said, “I’ve already spent £50,000 of my own money on this and can’t afford to spend any more. “We won’t spend this money unless we have to and we’d rather have a judicial review, but if we press on with a private prosecution, it’s something that we’ll look at.” Shirley McKie (43), from Troon, a former detective, was awarded £750,000 damages after being cleared of lying under oath in 1999.

    She had claimed a murder scene fingerprint was not hers, something the Scottish Executive has accepted. However, the Executive has rejected calls from opposition parties for a public or a judicial inquiry into the affair, following statements in Parliament by the Justice Minister and Lord Advocate Colin Boyd last week. But now the Justice Committee has written to Ms Jamieson with a list of seven questions they want answered.


    Committee convener Pauline McNeill says in the letter it is vital there is public confidence in all aspects of the criminal justice system, and recent events may have resulted in public concerns about the work done by the Scottish Fingerprint Service. She adds the committee has not reached a view on whether it would be appropriate for a committee of Parliament to conduct an inquiry into the Scottish Criminal Record Office. “The committee is agreed, however, any such inquiry could not be regarded as a substitute for a judicially led public inquiry,” Ms McNeill adds.

    She points out the Justice Committees of Parliament have a duty to scrutinise the work of the Justice Department, which is responsible for the SCRO. The committee has asked the Justice Minister to reply by March 9, so her responses can be considered at their meeting on March 15. The letter means the McKie affair will rumble on at Parliament until the middle of next month, bringing further embarrassment to the Executive. Ms McKie’s father Iain, a former senior detective, has not ruled out hiring a retired judge to carry out a judicial inquiry, or mounting a private prosecution.


    The affair revolves around events following the murder of Marion Ross in her Kilmarnock home in January 1997. A fingerprint alleged to be that of Ms McKie was found at the scene. She denied the print was hers, and was charged with perjury. However, it was later proved the print was not hers. The man found guilty of the killing, also on the basis of fingerprint evidence, David Asbury, had his conviction quashed in 2002. Questions over the competence of the Scottish Fingerprint Service have been raised ever since. There have also been allegations of a cover-up.

    THE LETTER asks the Executive to —

    Provide details of the weaknesses identified in the Scottish Fingerprint Service following internal reviews and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland inspections. Provide details of steps taken since 2000 to address these weaknesses. Set out steps taken since 2000 to review identifications made by the SCRO Fingerprint Bureau, including through external peer review, in order to validate their findings.

    Set out actions taken in response to each of the recommendations contained in the HMIC report Scottish Criminal Record Office: The Fingerprint Bureau — Primary Inspection 2000. Explain why the move to the non-numeric standard of identification recommended in the HMIC report, and anticipated to take place during 2004, has not yet been implemented. Outline what further steps it intends to take to restore confidence in the SCRO and Scottish Fingerprint Service. Explain what steps it will take to counter comments made by foreign fingerprint experts which cast doubt on the working practices and standards of the service.

    THE PRESSURE on the Scottish Executive to hold an inquiry mounted yesterday when retired Solicitor General and senior judge Lord McCluskey called for a judicial inquiry.

  • Executive fails to extract DNA from print 26 February 2006
    THE SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE has failed in a bid to use DNA to fight a second legal challenge over fingerprint evidence linked to the Shirley McKie controversy. They tried to get DNA from a nine-year-old print that was key evidence in the trial of David Asbury, who was wrongly convicted of the murder of Marion Ross, in Kilmarnock in 1997. Mr Asbury is demanding damages of more than £150,000 from the Executive and four fingerprint experts from the Scottish Criminal Record Office.


    The experts claimed at his trial that a print on a biscuit tin found in Asbury’s home in Kilbirnie, Ayrshire, belonged to the 51-year-old victim, who was stabbed and had her ribs crushed in the attack in her home. The tin contained £1800, suggesting a motive for murder, although Asbury claimed the cash was his savings. He was jailed for life in 1997 but freed in 2000 pending an appeal. His conviction was quashed in 2003 after judges accepted the fingerprint evidence was unreliable. Mr Asbury is trying to prove the misidentification of the print was more than a mistake and amounted to “fabrication”.

    The Executive tried to back up the claim that the print was Miss Ross’s by recovering DNA from the area of the tin where it was located. Independent experts from the Forensic Science Service in England were called in to take samples. However, they said there was no DNA detectable and the print wasn’t even visible any more.

    Tiny amount

    They added it was possible only a tiny amount of DNA had been deposited with the print and that it had degraded or rubbed off over the years. DNA confirmation could also have helped the Executive challenge Shirley McKie’s legal claim. She’d argued the print on the tin supported her allegation that there had been malicious behaviour.

    This was because it showed there had been two misidentifications in one murder case and they were so obvious that the experts must have known they were wrong. Arizona-based fingerprint expert, Pat Wertheim, who has backed Ms McKie and Mr Asbury, said the attempt to get DNA had been a long shot by the Executive. He claimed, “It’s largely impossible to do on a regular basis. We ran a series of experiments a few years ago and, at best, only found DNA in one out of four prints.” The Scottish Executive confirmed, “An expert report into DNA was commissioned.”
    Scale of McKie cover-up revealed 26 February 2006
    A DEVASTATING secret report into how police fingerprint experts manipulated evidence and covered up errors in the Shirley McKie scandal is revealed today by Scotland on Sunday. The 58-page document, written by one of the country's leading police officers, accuses the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) of "unbelievable... arrogance... and complacency", and of taking a "criminal course of action" aimed at protecting reputations, regardless of the impact on others.

    The investigation suggests a conspiracy inside the SCRO involving senior figures. It reveals that one leading fingerprint expert tried to pressure a junior colleague into identifying a crime scene print as McKie's. The report was written in 2000 by James Mackay, the then Deputy Chief Constable of Tayside, and lays bare deep disagreement within the SCRO about whether the print belonged to the detective constable. It reveals that at least three further experts failed to confirm the identification. Despite this, the SCRO continued to insist McKie had left her thumbprint on a door frame at a murder scene, which led to her being charged with perjury. The emergence of the report - kept secret for nearly six years - led last night to fresh demands for a public inquiry, and to further questions as to why Scotland's prosecutors had failed to act on Mackay's findings.

    Shirley McKie's father, Iain, said: "After a nine-year battle to clear my daughter's name, I feel totally vindicated. But what is so distressing is that this report was not acted upon by the Lord Advocate Colin Boyd. Why did the Lord Advocate not take account of the facts in this report? That is an indictment of the Lord Advocate and the whole system." Shirley McKie, now 43, was a detective with Strathclyde Police when, in February 1997, she was seconded to the murder squad investigating the death of Marion Ross. A thumbprint on a door frame was examined by the SCRO and wrongly identified as McKie's. When the officer denied in court having visited the murder scene, she was charged with perjury. McKie was only acquitted when two US fingerprint experts gave evidence that the print was not hers. McKie was recently awarded £750,000 compensation by the Scottish Executive, which continues to claim the incident was an "honest mistake".

    Scotland on Sunday has previously reported the conclusion of Mackay's report into the scandal, which was delivered in October 2000, that there was "criminality" and a "cover-up" at the SCRO. But the full executive summary has now been obtained by this newspaper and provides the most detailed and shocking account yet of what went wrong in the SCRO. It reveals that:

    • The SCRO was divided from the start over whether the print at the murder scene was McKie's. On Monday, February 10, 1997, one junior member of staff who could not identify the print beyond doubt was told by a senior colleague that it would be "beneficial" if it could be identified, and "suggested getting someone else" to do so.

    • By the following day, no fewer than four SCRO experts had been found who could positively identify the print.

    • A week later, on February 18, "blind" tests were carried out by four SCRO staff, three of whom could not positively identify the print as McKie's. Two asked for more time but "were not shown the mark again".

    • The Mackay inquiry contacted the leading authority in England on fingerprinting, the Durham-based National Fingerprint Training Centre, which accused the SCRO's experts of "collective manipulation and collective collusion".

    • SCRO officers who gave evidence at McKie's trial were seen arguing during a break, even though one of them had still to give evidence. This is a clear breach of court rules.

    Mackay's report concludes: "One cannot help but firmly believe that mistakes having been made, there prevailed a culture and mindset to preserve the reputation of individuals. There was then a criminal course of action. Sadly, this entrenched arrogance by some overshadows the dedication and excellent work evident in others." Scotland on Sunday has also been passed a minute from a meeting of SCRO fingerprint experts in 1995 in which they appear to express "concern" about pressure from superiors to come up with results. It warns of "concern as shown by the group over the question of persons' names being taken over not signing an identification". A letter from a former SCRO fingerprint expert has also been passed to this newspaper alleging "bullying and intimidation" of officers.

    A spokeswoman for the SCRO said last night that since the McKie case the service had been transformed. "Since 2000, as a result of this case, SCRO has been subject to several detailed and rigorous reviews," she said. "All processes and procedures were scrutinised by HMIC [Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary]. "The Scottish Fingerprint Service embraced the need for significant change and implemented a change management programme, resulting in the introduction of ... new and improved quality management systems which are subject to external audit and accreditation." But campaigners insist the problems that blighted the McKie case still linger on. At least one murder conviction is to be challenged on the basis of "flawed" fingerprint evidence.

  • Clear parallels between McKie and Lockerbie investigations 24 February 2006
    I cannot comment on whether the Lockerbie case may have interfered with the Shirley McKie fingerprint case, but there do seem to be worrying parallels between the two cases which should concern those who seek the whole truth. It is alleged that, in the McKie case, Harry Bell claimed the fingerprint evidence obtained abroad should be set aside because it was based on copy prints sent by e-mail, whereas the Scottish Criminal Records Office opinion used the superior original, and that he refused to release the original for others outside the SCRO to review.

    In the Lockerbie case, Edwin Bollier, of Zurich, the manufacturer of the digital timer alleged by the prosecution to have been used in the bomb was called as a witness at Zeist. The identification of the timer was said to have been based solely on a small fragment recovered from the crash scene. Yet, according to Mr Bollier, the Scottish police repeatedly refused him access to the fragment even though he turned up in Scotland, pre-trial, expressly to see it. He complained bitterly that he was only allowed to see photographs, never the original, and so could not precisely identify the timer from which it was said to have come, since the photographs were not of adequate quality.

    In the Lockerbie case, Colin Boyd, the Lord Advocate, was in charge of the prosecution team and Mr Bell was a vital member of the criminal investigation team. It seems to me that where the prosecution denies full access to important evidential material in its possession, which might be of significance to the defence, then the principle of "equality of arms" is overturned, and the fairness of the trial, and, therefore, the verdict, may be jeopardised. Of course it would be unlikely that those in charge of such cases would relish an independent inquiry.
    Chipping Campden

    The Shirley McKie case has blown the fallacy that fingerprint evidence provides a 100 per cent infallible method of identification out of the water. We must consider that if a mistake of this nature can occur, how many suspects were wrongfully imprisoned, or sent to the gallows, when the science was in its relative infancy, as "genetic fingerprinting" is today? The case for establishing a national DNA register must now have been dealt a serious blow, as even if the experts are correct in their estimate that the chances of two people having the same DNA pattern are one in several tens of millions, they can no longer tell us that "if you are not guilty, you have nothing to fear". It will not be surprising if evidence of a cover-up comes to light in the McKie inquiry when we consider the serious implications had the Crown Prosecution Service admitted to the fallibility of fingerprint evidence.

    Colinton Mains Drive

    The bungling and desperate cover-up of the Shirley McKie case leads me to believe there will never be a public inquiry. The trouble with cover-ups is that (as Richard Nixon found out) they leave there own fingerprint trail.

    The Scottish Executive has mismanaged this case badly and has done permanent damage to public confidence in our legal system.

    Mugiemoss Road
    Bucksburn, Aberdeenshire

  • Masons control chief constables in fingerprint conspiracy 22 February 2006
    Masons control chief constables and head the injustice in fingerprint conspiracy and ALL other injustices that flow from their secret society agenda

    Wallace backs call for debate on dual role of lord advocate

    Jim Wallace, the former justice minister and deputy first minister, has joined the most senior lawyer in Labour's Holyrood ranks to call for a public debate on the role of the lord advocate in the wake of the Shirley McKie fiasco. Gordon Jackson QC, has been a staunch defender of the dual role of the lord advocate as both cabinet member offering legal advice to his fellow ministers and independent chief prosecutor in Scotland. But yesterday the MSP for Glasgow Govan, conceded that such a view was coming "increasingly into question". Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, and Colin Boyd, the lord advocate, will address MSPs today on the continuing fall-out from the McKie case.

    The former policewoman was wrongly accused of leaving her fingerprint at a murder scene. It was not known last night if Mr Boyd would address the issue of his dual role. However, Ms Jamieson is certain to rebuff calls for a public inquiry after ministers agreed a £750,000 out-of-court settlement for Ms McKie in a damages claim against the Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO). She will talk about measures to restore confidence in the system but refuses to rake over old coals. Mr Jackson said he accepted the need for a public debate, but was yet to be convinced of the need for reform.

    He said: "I have always thought it was quite possible and quite appropriate to combine the two roles. It does seem that in the modern world that is coming increasingly into question. "There should not be a change on the basis of a knee-jerk reaction, and I personally have not reached a conclusion that we are at the stage where there must be change, but I accept that there now needs to be a debate on this. "In a system where the lord advocate has these two roles there has to be a real understanding by both politicians and the media of how that works, and if we lose that then the current system could become untenable."

    Mr Wallace, the former Scottish LibDem leader, says there should be no rush to judgment, but suggested the lord advocate's role should be looked at when the time comes to revisit the Scotland Act. He said: "At some stage there is going to have to be a review of the Scotland Act and this is an issue which merits due consideration then." But Alex Neil, the SNP MSP, yesterday called for the fingerprint staff at the SCRO's Glasgow bureau to be suspended on full pay pending the outcome of a judicial public inquiry into "this whole fiasco". He wants such an inquiry to have the power to recommend disciplinary action and criminal proceedings.

    "Not to take action to suspend the bureau would be a betrayal of the Scottish criminal justice system," he said, prompting criticism from the Tories, who said this would pre-judge any inquiry. Ms McKie had always insisted that a thumbprint found in a room where Marion Ross was murdered in 1997 did not belong to her. Experts acting on her behalf have been fiercely critical of the fingerprint service. One of the experts, Pat Wertheim, has called the Scottish fingerprint service "a laughing stock". However, the country's chief constables yesterday weighed in with a declaration of confidence in the system. Peter Wilson, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said: "The police service in Scotland has the utmost faith and confidence in the fingerprinting service being offered

  • Justice, fairness and the stench of scandal 19 February 2006
    THE need for a fully independent public inquiry into the case of Shirley McKie, the police officer wrongly accused of leaving her fingerprint at a murder site, is now incontestable.

    Last week this newspaper exposed grave issues of public interest raised by the case, involving "criminality and cover up" at the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) and explained why such an inquiry must be held. In the seven days since, our position has been significantly strengthened. Indeed, our revelations today render the argument for an inquiry unanswerable. On Friday, the individual at the epicentre of the controversy, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd, having dithered for five days, issued a statement of monumental complacency. His claim that "there have always been, and there remain, conflicting expert views on the issue of identification of the relevant fingerprints" can only be described as provocative. Not only does this appear to be an attempt to reopen the settled argument about McKie's innocence, it echoes the view controversially expressed years ago by Willie Rae, then Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway, that fingerprinting was not an exact science. We beg to differ. Of course fingerprinting is an exact science: no two people have the same fingerprints. As such, once competent experts had determined the print found at the murder scene was not McKie's, the Scottish Executive began its long retreat which ended with the award of £750,000 in compensation to a woman who had once been tried for perjury.

    It is outrageous that, nine years down the line, the Lord Advocate should still seek to muddy the waters by pretending that there is some kind of conflict within expert evidence, as if one man's opinion is as good as another's, when the issue is one of objective scientific truth and fairness. But a more important development at last sheds some light on the puzzling question as to why the full weight of the establishment should have been brought to bear on the relatively minor case of Shirley McKie. The SCRO, whose evidence was disproved in the McKie case, was also crucial to the prosecution in the Lockerbie trial. If its expertise was compromised there was a risk that the Lockerbie prosecution would fail. We reveal today that the two American experts, Pat Wertheim and David Grieve, whose testimony acquitted Shirley McKie, were warned off speaking out on the case by the FBI, which had been visited by an officer of the SCRO. At the same time the FBI and the Scottish legal establishment were playing for high stakes with regard to the Lockerbie trial: against that backdrop, was justice for McKie seen as a secondary issue? The Lockerbie factor injects a whole new dimension into the situation, as ministers must be aware. We also now know that Jim Wallace, the former justice minister, was made aware of alleged "collective collusion and... manipulation" at the SCRO and yet failed to take any action. Where, now, is the argument against a public inquiry?

    We are far from alone in demanding one. At the latest count, such a step was supported by the McKie family, the SCRO personnel, Pauline McNeill MSP who is convener of the justice committee, all the opposition parties and many Labour MSPs at Holyrood, senior police officers and fingerprint scientists. The only people who appear to be opposed to an inquiry are the Lord Advocate and the past and present justice ministers. All of these people are supposedly committed to the principle of transparency and accountability in the law and in devolved government. What have they to fear? It is time for First Minister Jack McConnell to stand up and be counted. There can be no room for secrecy and cover-up in a situation that could have cost an innocent woman her freedom. Nothing short of a public inquiry can now restore confidence in our justice system.

    A winning idea

    AND it's disaster for Scotland... Or perhaps not any more. Sir Bill Gammell, the energy tycoon, is determined to help rid Scotland of its culture of "glorious defeat", typified by the masochistic scenes that attend our eviction from the World Cup. Gammell is putting his money where his mouth is, by contributing £275,000 towards the creation of a new foundation designed to imbue Scottish sports stars of the future with a "winning mentality". This is a welcome move. Self-belief is the essential prerequisite for winning. Gammell's recipe is based on common sense. By laying on additional facilities such as specialised training, the foundation will offer support to potential stars who may just lack the extra edge that would make them trophy winners and record breakers. And there is no reason why more Scots should not be winners - we have been for centuries, on a global scale.

    But the most significant aspect of Gammell's initiative is psychological. To create a can-do mentality among more of our competitors in a variety of sports will not necessarily be easy. It is good, however, that someone is making the effort. And this project has a relevance far beyond the world of sport. It is high time a culture of healthy competition, aspiration and achievement was reintroduced into other key parts of Scottish life. Of course, there are areas in which we currently excel and we should not imagine that the glass is not already half full. But we can, and Gammell shows the way, do much more. Inhibitions about competition should no longer be allowed to hold Scots back. There is nothing unwholesome about excelling or about making a profit. If sport is a metaphor for life, then giving birth to a new spirit of optimism may be just the beginning of a wider renaissance of self-confidence and belief in our ability to triumph over adversity.

  • Cover-up, conspiracy and the Lockerbie bomb connection 19 February 2006
    IF THERE is a day when the seemingly inconsequential case involving DC Shirley McKie morphed into the crisis which today is threatening the reputation of Scotland's judicial and political system, it is Thursday, August 3, 2000. It was already more than three years since McKie (pictured left) had visited a house in Kilmarnock where a woman called Marion Ross had been brutally murdered. Since then McKie had been accused of entering that house unauthorised, and leaving her fingerprint on the crime scene. She had been charged with perjury, after claiming in court she had never set foot in there. She had been humiliated at the hands of her former colleagues. Now, on that August day, a group set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland (ACPOS) to examine the McKie case, was faced with a stunning report. It had already been established that the fingerprint experts at the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) had got it wrong and that the print was not McKie's. Now, the document in front of the group - an interim update from James Mackay, the man they had asked to investigate the case - claimed the SCRO officers had acted criminally to cover up their mistakes. The consequences were immense: if Scotland's forensic service was both guilty of errors and of attempting to conceal those errors, what confidence could anyone have in the entire justice system? Last week, Scotland on Sunday revealed the contents of Mackay's final report, which had been kept secret for six years, and which was never acted upon by Scotland's chief prosecutor, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd. This week, we can reveal that it was not just police and prosecutors who knew its contents; the devastating findings of the interim version were passed on to ministers as well.

    Mackay, a much respected former Deputy Chief Constable of Tayside police, had been commissioned to investigate the McKie case after a separate report by HM Inspectors of Constabulary had found that - despite the SCRO's claims - McKie's prints had never been at the crime scene. Mackay now probed deeper. As this newspaper revealed last week, his final report found that a mistake had been made, yet had not then been owned up to. "The fact that it was not so dealt with," he reported, "led to 'cover up' and criminality." Now Scotland on Sunday has been passed documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation which show that on the same day that Mackay's interim findings were being given to police chiefs, the then Justice Minister Jim Wallace was also informed of the results. The language used to describe Mackay's findings to Wallace was even starker than that used in the report itself. The proof comes in an e-mail written by a senior official in the Scottish Executive Justice Department, Sheena Maclaren, to another senior Justice Department official, John Rafferty. Maclaren, who was the secretary of the Department's second police division, handled the correspondence of Wallace. On September 20, 2001, Maclaren wrote: "James Mackay, then DCC Tayside police, was appointed to lead the investigation of the issues relating to fingerprint evidence. On 3 August 2000, we were informed that investigations so far suggested that the evidence given in court by... SCRO fingerprint personnel was 'so significantly distorted that without further explanation, the SCRO identification likely amounts to collective manipulation and collective collusion'."

    She added: "Mr W Rae, then President of ACPOS and President of SCRO's Executive Committee, decided that given the circumstances, all Chief Constables concluded that there was no alternative but to 'precautionary suspend' the 4 SCRO personnel. This was done on 3 August by the Director of SCRO. Ministers, copied to Richard Henderson and others, were informed of this decision in a minute from John Rowell on 3 August 2000." Rowell, another head of police in the Scottish Executive's Justice Department, sat on the executive committee of the SCRO. A minute of the committee meeting on October 27, 2000, attended by Rowell, confirmed that he too saw Mackay's findings. "Mr Rae [the chairman] had made available copies of [Mackay's] Interim Report," the minute declares. Last week, before being confronted with today's revelations, the Scottish Executive confirmed it had never been given sight of Mackay's report. A spokesman for the Justice Department said: "It would not have been appropriate for Scottish Ministers to have seen the report. It remains a confidential report between the police and the Crown Office and Scottish Ministers (except for the Lord Advocate in his capacity as head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal's office) have never been passed a copy of the report." Asked whether the First Minister had seen the report, his spokesman replied: "No - and neither have any other Ministers past or present as this was a confidential report between the police and the Crown Office." After being told about the e-mails yesterday, a spokesman for the Executive insisted that they only referred to Mackay's interim findings, not to his full report which was published some months later. The spokesman said: "This e-mail exchange simply confirms that the Executive was made aware of the rationale for that action [suspension of the SCRO officers]. As the e-mail makes clear, this was interim information provided to the Executive in the year 2000 around the time of the suspension decision." The spokesman said that a civil service note had been sent to Wallace after the August 2000 meeting which "would have confirmed the reasons why there were going to be suspensions". The spokesman added that it was for the Lord Advocate, not his fellow ministers, to act on the findings of the Mackay report. Last night there were further questions from the McKie family and their supporters over why, when faced with such staggering allegations, ministers failed to do more to address the SCRO's failings.

    Iain McKie, Shirley McKie's father, said: "This reveals that at that time in August 2000, the Mackay report was being discussed within Jim Wallace's department. The whole case has now reached staggering proportions and if ever a public inquiry was required it is required now." Wallace was unavailable for comment yesterday - and with his successor Cathy Jamieson remaining silent about the scandal, it has been left to Boyd to explain the inaction. On Friday, he declared that he had seen the full Mackay report and decided that there was still insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone from the SCRO. This decision, taken in September 2001, astonished Mackay. He is understood to have expressed his "surprise" and "disappointment" to the Crown Office and to have relayed his concerns to the then deputy crown agent, Bill Gilchrist. Indeed, so curious is the Lord Advocate's decision not to prosecute, that many are reaching their own conclusions as to why he didn't press ahead with a prosecution. One is the theory that such a prosecution would undermine the case against David Asbury, the man jailed for the murder of Marion Ross. Such a fear was misguided: Asbury's conviction was quashed anyway in August 2002 on the back of the McKie revelations. A second theory brings in the shadow of the Lockerbie bombing. Mackay's explosive report into the McKie case that August came three months after Boyd began the prosecution of Libyan suspects Abdelbaset Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah. The eyes of the world were focused on Scottish justice. What would it have said of that system if - just as the Crown was trying to convict the bombers - it emerged that fingerprint officials had been involved in "criminality and cover-up"?

    Boyd strenuously denies that Lockerbie has any relevance to his judgments regarding the McKie case. When Iain McKie first raised the issue in 2000, Crown Office officials declared that Lockerbie "had not affected in any way the response from this or indeed any other department of the Scottish Executive to the issues raised by you." But there is clear proof that senior justice chiefs had a stake in both cases; SCRO director Harry Bell, for example - whose agency was coming under such scrutiny - was a central figure in the Lockerbie investigation, having been given the key role in the crucial Maltese wing of the investigation, and given evidence in court. Today's revelation that two American fingerprint experts who savaged the SCRO over the McKie case were asked by the FBI to "back off" suggests that plenty of people were aware of the danger that the case could undermine the Lockerbie trial. Former MP Tam Dalyell - who has long campaigned on the Lockerbie case - said: "I have always felt that there was something deeply wrong with both the McKie case and the Lockerbie judgment. It is deeply dismaying for those of us who were believers in Scottish justice. The Crown Office regard the Lockerbie case as their flagship case and they will go to any lengths to defend their position." The pressure for a full public inquiry is now growing day by day.

    It is understood that, this week, the Scottish Parliament's Justice 1 Committee will consider launching a full parliamentary inquiry. One thing is sure: this murky affair looks set to rock the foundations of Scotland's criminal justice system. • SCOTLAND on Sunday revealed last week that justice officials were warned six years ago by police of "cover-up and criminality" in the Shirley McKie fingerprint case. Our story was picked up across Scotland, leading to calls for a judicial inquiry from MSPs. Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson is now under growing pressure to act over the scandal but - nearly two weeks on - has so far refused to talk once about why ministers decided to offer £750,000 to Shirley McKie, just as she was about to take her case to court. Lord Advocate Colin Boyd is also in the firing line, over his decision not to press charges against fingerprint experts, despite the allegations of criminality. Jim Wallace, Justice Minister when the McKie scandal broke, is also under fire. He was aware of the allegations but failed to act. First Minister Jack McConnell is under pressure to call a public inquiry. • TWO American fingerprint experts were warned by the FBI to back off from the Shirley McKie case for fear it would scupper the trial of the Lockerbie bombers. David Grieve, the senior fingerprint expert at Illinois State police, said that FBI agents pleaded with him to stay silent, fearing the case "would taint the people involved in Lockerbie".

    Campaigners for the McKie family last night claimed that the plea to "let everything drop" shed new light on why the former policewoman was denied justice. They believe that the Crown was determined to protect the reputation of the Scottish justice system at a time when it was coming under international scrutiny. The astonishing claims come as Scotland on Sunday reveals that: • former justice minister Jim Wallace was aware six years ago that fingerprint experts at the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) were accused of "collective manipulation and collective collusion", yet they were allowed to return to work two years later; • MSPs are preparing to launch their own parliamentary inquiry into the scandal to get to the truth of the allegations. Wertheim and Grieve, both internationally respected fingerprint experts, were central in clearing McKie in 1999 when she was accused of having left her fingerprint at a crime scene. The case left the Scottish justice system open to claims its fingerprint evidence was unsafe. FBI officers took both aside before the Lockerbie trial in the Hague began in February 2000. Grieve, the senior fingerprint expert at Illinois State Police, said: "I was asked not to mention anything about the case and not to publicise it because we had to think about the higher goal, which was Lockerbie."

    He also claims that the FBI had been visited weeks earlier by an official from the SCRO. "I was pulled aside and given a lecture on the importance of not embarrassing a 'sister agency' which had 'very important and high profile' cases pending of an international significance. I knew the reference was to the Pan-Am bombing," he said. Wertheim, a fingerprint expert of 20 years' experience, added: "I was at the FBI for a meeting and one of their people approached me and made the suggestion that I let everything drop." Iain McKie, Shirley McKie's father, said yesterday that he believed Lockerbie provided a motive for the 'cover up' over his daughter's case.

    He said: "I have always suspected the Lockerbie connection, but when I put it to the Lord Advocate, I got nothing from them. I could never understand why they treated my daughter like that. Lockerbie would give them that motivation." Former MSP Mike Russell, who has campaigned for the McKie family, said: "This new information suggests the context for the Shirley McKie miscarriage of justice. It suggests that this context is much bigger than previously thought. "It places the Lord Advocate in a completely untenable position and he too must now be considering his future. If he was influenced by this [Lockerbie] then he cannot continue as Lord Advocate." SNP MSP Alex Neil, another campaigner for the McKies, said: "A lot of people think that there was pressure put on the FBI by the Scottish law authorities which maybe explains some of the bizarre decisions taken by the Lord Advocate." The link between Lockerbie and the McKie case goes deeper as several police chiefs and prosecutors were involved in both. The director of the SCRO at the time of the allegations of criminality, Harry Bell, was one of the key police officers whose evidence led to the conviction of Abdel-baset Al Megrahi.

    Lord Advocate Colin Boyd led the Lockerbie trial, securing a conviction in January 2001. In September of that year, despite the evidence presented by the Mackay report, he decided not to prosecute the SCRO officers over the McKie case. The SCRO admitted yesterday that its officials had visited the FBI in 1999 and 2000, but insisted the trips had nothing to do with the McKie case. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Crown Office strongly denied that the decision not to prosecute the SCRO officers had been taken with Lockerbie in mind. She said: "SCRO was not involved in any way with fingerprinting in the Lockerbie case, the evidence of which was never disputed at all." Boyd declared on Friday that he had decided not to prosecute the four SCRO officials because of "conflicting" evidence from fingerprint experts. He added that a prosecution would have to prove criminal intent.

    Wilful blindness to the truth threatens to erode justice

    IT SHOULD worry us all that after more than six years of embarrassment about the quality of fingerprint evidence in Scotland and the calibre of work done by the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO), the senior prosecutor in the land appears to have learnt nothing. At the very least, we can say with confidence that the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC, has failed to grasp a critical issue at the heart of this debate. In a letter Boyd sent on Friday to the presiding officer George Reid to explain his decisions to prosecute Shirley McKie for perjury and not to prosecute the four SCRO experts who misidentified a print at a murder scene as hers, he writes: "Since the time the issue arose in the trial of Shirley McKie, there have always been, and there remain, conflicting expert views on the issue of identification of the relevant fingerprints. "I concluded in 2001 that the conflict in expert evidence was such that there could be no question of criminal proceedings." In the earlier days of the debate, Willie Rae, then Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway and now the top man at Strathclyde, said in front of TV cameras that fingerprinting was not an exact science, and that the McKie case was simply a difference of opinion between experts.

    More recently, Jim Wallace, while still Justice Minister, reached a similar conclusion. Boyd has now revealed he too remains unenlightened. Fingerprinting, properly administered, is an exact science. Ask any of the genuine experts, such as Allan Bayle, formerly of Scotland Yard, or Pat Wertheim, the American expert who testified so brilliantly at McKie's trial in 1999. But even common sense should tell us, given the fact that people have been executed - and still are in some parts of the world - on the strength of a fingerprint, that it has to be precise. There is a stubborn refusal by the SCRO to admit even that an error was made, far less something more sinister, even though the Crown Office and the Executive have long since conceded that point. This pig-headedness ensures that changes that are crying out to be made are kept in check. The SCRO still makes an identification based on establishing 16 points of similarity. In more advanced centres around the world, experts examine the whole mark and don't work to a numerical, and fallible, standard. Better practices and training are available, but despite making another major error in a mark left at a bank robbery in Ayrshire two years ago, SCRO continues to spurn them. The result is that Scottish fingerprinting has become a laughing stock around the world.

    Independent experts have also been highly critical about SCRO's crime-scene investigation work, described by Bayle as the worst he's ever seen. The organisation must be forced to acknowledge its many flaws. There is also a pressing need to break the strong link between the SCRO and the police service, especially Strathclyde Police. The current director, John McLean, was an Assistant Chief Constable with the force. His predecessor, Harry Bell, was a Det Chief Superintendent there. Agencies involved in detecting and solving crime, the police, forensic examiners, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, tend to form bonds and pull together. But that has to be resisted as it undermines the necessary independence of each of those bodies. Scientists and analysts who examine crime scenes for fingerprints, traces of DNA and any other clues should simply be concerned with finding the best evidence and passing it on. They should not become part of the drive to secure the conviction of an accused person. It has been suggested to Scotland on Sunday that SCRO experts have in the past been given targets to meet in making positive identifications. That should never happen. A print either matches a crime scene mark or it does not. International experts have proved the mark in Marion Ross's home was not left by McKie; five colleagues of the four who insisted it was refused to support their identification; an independent inquiry by senior police officers found evidence of criminality on the part of the SCRO. Yet the organisation, with no dissent from the Executive or the Crown Office, continues to stand by its discredited experts. It does not bode well for Scottish justice.


  • How much more evidence is needed for a public inquiry? 19 February 2006
    UK fingerprint expert: evidence more likely to be fabricated than incompetent

    THE pressure on Jack McConnell to order a judicial inquiry into the Shirley McKie case became unbearable last night after a slew of fresh forensic evidence was unearthed by the Sunday Herald. Investigations by this newspaper have uncovered damning material alleging “collective manipulation of evidence” and “fabrication” on the part of fingerprint officers at the Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO) in Glasgow. The allegations follow revelations last week that a police inquiry led by James Mackay, then deputy chief constable of Tayside Police, found evidence in 2000 of “criminality and cover up” among SCRO experts. In a confidential precognition of Mackay he revealed his “surprise” that there was no prosecution against “four experts (and perhaps others) at SCRO in light of the sufficiency of evidence of criminality involved”.

    However, for the first time, new material shows that the allegations of criminality against experts go beyond the erroneous McKie print – found at the murder scene of Kilmarnock woman Marion Ross in 1997. It now makes the position held by SCRO experts – that they made no mistakes in the Ross investigation – utterly untenable. Previously unseen reports, compiled by British and US fingerprint experts for the lawyer Cameron Fyfe, allege that a second SCRO fingerprint identification in the case, which led to the conviction of David Asbury for Ross’s murder, was “pure fabrication”. The fingerprint – marked QI2 – was found on a sweet tin filled with money in Asbury’s house just days after the murder in January 1997. SCRO officers identified the mark as belonging to Marion Ross, providing a motive for the crime and linking him to the victim. On the back of the fingerprint evidence Asbury was jailed for life ... but released in 2000 after doubts were raised about the McKie print. However, a damning report by US expert Pat Wertheim reveals: “The flagrant differences in the mark [QI2] and the inked right fore fingerprint of Marion Ross are so gross in their totality that no competent fingerprint examiner could possibly mistake them as having come from the same source. “If one is to accept that the fingerprint experts who made and testified to the identification are competent ... then mere error alone cannot explain the erroneous identification and the possibility of an intentional erroneous identification must be considered. If that is the case, Crown Production number 99 is a complete fabrication used to present false and perjured testimony.”

    Another report, by Allan Bayle, a fingerprint expert formely of the London Metropolitan Police, states that it was his “firm belief” that the SCRO’s forensic evidence in the case was “far more likely to be fabrication rather than gross incompetence”. The Sunday Herald has also been passed a copy of a previously unseen report by the UK’s national forensic training centre in Durham – where SCRO experts are trained – which concludes that there “appears to be collective manipulation of evidence and collective collusion to erroneously identify Shirley McKie”. Last night, the Sunday Herald’s evidence led to calls for an inquiry by politicians, the Strathclyde joint police board and by David Asbury. Alex Salmond MP, the SNP leader, said: “We are now in a situation where everybody wants a public inquiry with the exception of the ministers. There has been an official cover up and secondly a political cover up.” Alex Neil MSP, who has been a supporter of the McKies, said: “This new evidence makes a public inquiry absolutely necessary.” David Asbury, who spent three and a half years in jail for the Ross murder, said: “I know there was fabrication involved in this case because I was fitted up. There should definitely be a public inquiry into this case and criminal charges brought aganst the SCRO experts.”

    Iain McKie, the father of Shirley McKie said: “The first minister and justice minister have refused to face the public. A judicial inquiry would compel them to raise their right hand and tell the public what they know.” An SCRO spokeswoman said it could not comment on the new evidence as it “did not possess” the reports. A Scottish Executive spokesman said it did not believe that an inquiry would “shed new light” on the issue. Analysis: Full investigation into the fingerprint cover-up

  • Independent complaints body call 19 February 2006
    Opposition MSPs are divided over Strathclyde Police Federation claims that officers need protection from malicious complaints. Not a single member of the public has been held to account despite thousands of unfounded complaints. Glasgow Conservative MSP Bill Aitken described the vast majority of complaints as "spurious".

    Socialist MSP Frances Curran warned of reprisals for complaining and called for an independent complaints body. She said: "There are some real problems there for the complainants. "The banner headline here - especially if you are a woman - is don't make any allegations against the police because you'll be on the receiving end. "Let's not waste police time doing internal investigations.

    "We already have in England an Independent Police Complaints Commission. Let's go for that in Scotland. "I don't think we can have the police investigating themselves." The Glasgow MSP recently expressed her concerns to the complaints and discipline department within Strathclyde Police. Conservative Bill Aitken said he and the vast majority of the public were "relaxed" with the present system. He said: "One has to set a balance.

    "The vast majority of complaints are totally spurious and are simply to justify a defence. "Certainly there has got to be a robust investigation process. "We have to look at the number of frankly farcical complaints that are being lodged because it is cluttering up the system and leaving the justice system in a degree of disarray at times." He added: "The system has to be robust, we can't have police officers misbehaving themselves and not being dealt with."

  • LAW CHIEF IN MCKIE DNA BID 19 February 2006

    Opposed: Shirley McKie and Colin Boyd QC

    SCOTLAND'S top prosecutor tried to get DNA from fingerprint evidence in the Shirley McKie case three months before she was awarded a £750,000 out-of-court settlement. Ex-detective McKie, 43, was wrongly accused of leaving her print at the scene of the murder of Marion Ross in Kilmarnock and fought for nine years to clear her me. Last night, fingerprint expert Alan Bayle said Colin Boyd, QC, the Lord Advocate, instructed officials to try to get DNA samples in a bid to discredit McKie's claim for compensation. Bayle provided opinions for McKie and joiner David Asbury, 39, of Kilbirnie, Ayrshire, who spent almost four years in jail for the 1997 murder. He branded the move as "sneaky and futile".

    Boyd was forced to defend himself after claims that a Crown Office blunder wrongly indentifying the print as McKie's was covered up in a "criminal" manner. McKie's father Iain, a former Strathclyde Police superintendent, said: "We'll fight for a public inquiry. At least £2million of taxpayers' money has been spent on this case. The public deserve to know who is responsible. "Then there's the question of who really did murder Marion Ross." Last night, a Crown Office spokesman said: "Consideration was given to DNA extraction but it was not possible." Asbury will have his case for £200,000 compensation heard at the Court of Session next year. His lawyer Cameron Fyfe said: "No matter what, the full facts of the case will be debated in open court."

  • Scottish Executive and McKie fingerprint case 16 February 2006
    The Scottish Executive and the McKie fingerprint case

    As William Tinning (February 15) makes clear, the Scottish Executive's policy of hunkering down till the storm over the McKie fingerprint case blows itself out does not seem to be successful. When First Minister Jack McConnell claims that all concerned agree "an honest mistake" was made, and that Scotland's fingerprint service is reliable, he is wrong on all counts. The McKie family reject the word "honest", the Scottish Criminal Record Office staff concerned refuse to acknowledge any mistake was made, and McConnell's counting skills desert him. This was not a single mistake, but a whole series. Four SCRO staff, if not working in collusion, initially misidentified the McKie print independently of each other, or so we are told. Two other SCRO staff later insisted they were correct. That makes six mistakes. Fiona McBride asks rather disingenuously: "How could all four of us make an honest mistake?" A charitable answer is that once McKie was put in the frame by one, tunnel vision and loyalty to colleagues skewed the judgment of the rest. In Newsnight Scotland (February 13), Kenneth Macintosh complained that SCRO staff had not had a chance to put their side of the case, but that ignores Shirley McKie's trial for perjury, and the damning (for SCRO) not guilty verdict.

    If the Scottish fingerprint service is reliable, why is evidence now emerging that two experts from the Netherlands and Norway, three from Durham, Pat Wertheim from the United States and Allan Bayle, a leading UK expert, have nothing but scorn to pour on SCRO's conclusions? SCRO, let us not forget, misidentified a print in the Asbury case, and one in an Ayrshire robbery case two years ago. So much for Mr McConnell's hollow reassurance that the service is reliable. A public inquiry is a must following allegations that SCRO staff not only got the McKie print wrong, but tampered with and rejigged evidence in a way that, if proven, amounts to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. To date, there is a distinct whiff of cover-up about the behaviour of Jack McConnell, the former justice minister Jim Wallace, Cathy Jamieson, the present incumbent, and Colin Boyd, lord advocate. Whatever happened to freedom of information in their overweening desire to hush up that report by Deputy Chief Constable James Mackay and DCS Scott Robertson?

    Ex-maths teacher McConnell not only cannot count, but cannot draw lines under this affair, while not only SCRO's, but also the executive's, honesty and integrity are open to such serious question. Iain McKie's key point is that Colin Boyd has an irreconcilable conflict of interest in cases where the Scottish Executive is being pursued through the courts, and Boyd's position allows him to decide which unpalatable reports are or are not pulled from under the carpet. It is just as well we appear to have a whistleblower with a conscience keeping press and public properly informed in this case.
    Dr J R Calder, 52 Ulster Crescent, Edinburgh.

    There really must be a public inquiry into the Shirley McKie case. The arguments for it are powerful: the McKie family want it; the fingerprint experts want it; those convicted on fingerprint evidence alone want it; those who were taught to believe that an individual's fingerprints were unique want it. Most of all, those interested in law, justice and the interpretation of evidence want it. Let us hope there is not too long a delay.
    Dr William O Thomson, 7 Silverwells Court, Bothwell.

    How many times does the justice minister, Cathy Jamieson, have to be invited to speak on Newsnight Scotland about the McKie case before it is obvious she is trying to avoid the subject? The question is – why?
    Ian Mackay, 30 Burncrooks Avenue, Bearsden.

  • An honest mistake made in good faith? 16 February 2006
    This phrase needs outlawed FOREVER from the legal crooks vocabulary.It allows establishment criminality to go unpunished.

    Frightening new evidence about McKie case

    "An honest mistake made in good faith." Yes, I have heard this comment before as a serving police officer. I even have had occasion to use it myself. While in the force, I have used the expression when dealing with members of the public who had complained about the actions of a police officer. One example. A young officer answering the phone in a busy office, mixing up two messages he received, one from a hospital about a sick patient and the other from another police office to inform relatives of a death. He mixed them up and the death message went to the wrong person. The recipient made a complaint over the phone and, being the senior officer on duty, I paid the gentleman concerned a visit, spent some time with him, explained fully the situation, proffered an apology, held up my hands and said the young man had made "an honest mistake in good faith" and the explanation was accepted. Apologising for "an honest mistake made in good faith" at the time, in my experience, worked wonders. It usually prevented a formal complaint to the chief constable. In Shirley McKie's case, if such an opportunity had presented itself, the current debacle might have been avoided. What has emerged in the media in the past week is frightening.

    I have always believed that the forensic examination of fingerprints was an exact science, and both Robert Johnstone and Les Brown (February 11) are quite right in that 16 points of comparison in a print found at the scene of a crime with that of a suspect were an ident and could lead to the arrest and conviction of an accused. It beggars belief, then, that at Tulliallan Police College in August 2000 two SCRO experts made a presentation to show how their fingerprint evidence proved that the mark had been made by Shirley. A "source" has apparently indicated that at first sight the SCRO presentation looked very impressive, showing 45 points in sequence. Why 45 when 16 points are considered enough? The "source" also apparently indicated that "when you look at it in detail, however, it's just Disneyland. There are a lot of invented points."

    Shirley McKie was acquitted in May 1999, 15 months before the presentation. During my service, I was of the opinion that if an accused was found not guilty, their fingerprints were destroyed. Has the law changed? Two of the world's leading fingerprint experts apparently told a police inquiry six years ago that the forensic case against former detective Shirley McKie was "fabricated" and had "verged on malpractice". Another expert claims the images were electronically blurred and cropped to improve the likeness.

    Did something sinister occur in 1997? Was someone out "to get" Shirley McKie? Did someone play a practical joke with a composite fingerprint that badly misfired? The Scottish Executive must bow to the inevitable and order, not only a full judicial, but also in parallel, a full criminal inquiry to determine the truth. The McKies must not be forced to mount a private prosecution at their own expense.

    Robert McLaughlin, 77 Braemar Court, Hazelden Gardens, Glasgow.

  • Criminal cover-up at the heart of fingerprint scandal 16 February 2006
    Exposed: the criminal cover-up at the heart of fingerprint scandal


    MINISTERS and top justice officials were warned five years ago by police of "cover-up and criminality" in the case of a Scottish detective falsely accused of perjury. Scotland on Sunday has obtained a previously secret report which confirms in shocking detail that fingerprint experts tried to cover up blunders over the case of Shirley McKie.

    The 43-year-old former Strathclyde officer was awarded £750,000 compensation last week in an out-of-court settlement following a nine-year battle to clear her name. First Minister Jack McConnell claimed in parliament it had been an "honest mistake". But we reveal today that in a report into the case, Jim Mackay, the then deputy chief constable of Tayside Police, told the Crown Office in October 2000: "There was criminality involved in the actings of the SCRO [Scottish Criminal Records Office] experts and that... criminality first reared its head in February 1997." He added: "It should have been patently obvious... a mistake had been made and there were opportunities... for the mistake to be acknowledged. The fact that it was not... led to 'cover-up' and criminality." Despite Mackay's crystal-clear warning of criminal conduct at the SCRO - which is directly accountable to Scottish ministers - neither the Crown Office nor the Scottish Executive took action against those responsible.

    Last night, the McKie case erupted into a major political row. Opposition politicians and legal experts demanded to know how the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, and the then justice minister, Jim Wallace, could have remained unaware of the Mackay report or failed to act on it. Questions were also asked about how McConnell could have insisted in parliament last week that an "honest mistake" had been made. The scandal began in February 1997 when McKie was accused of unauthorised presence at a murder scene after SCRO officers claimed to have found her left thumbprint on a door-frame at a Kilmarnock house. McKie denied the allegation and was later charged with perjury. She was cleared at her trial in 1999 after an American fingerprint expert, Pat Wertheim, gave evidence that the print could not have been hers. The SCRO continued to deny a mistake had been made. McKie's civil case for compensation was due to start last Tuesday, but the Scottish Executive settled at the last minute.

    Scotland on Sunday's investigation has also revealed:

    • Pat Wertheim was about to give devastating evidence for McKie that the SCRO tampered with images of her fingerprints in an effort to strengthen their case. Wertheim claims the images were electronically blurred and cropped to improve the likeness. Wertheim told Scotland on Sunday: "That is the smoking gun that tells me they knew this was an erroneous identification. This had to be done intentionally."

    • The SCRO officers implicated in the scandal are not only still working for the organisation, but have been placed in roles where they supervise the work of other fingerprint experts.

    • The organisation continues to make serious errors. A charge of robbery against a man in Ayrshire had to be dropped two years ago after independent fingerprint experts and Northern Ireland police told the SCRO they had misidentified a print on a glass.

    Shirley McKie, who has suffered depression following her ordeal at the hands of the Scottish justice system, said: "I am totally disgusted by these revelations. The thought that government ministers could be part of a cover-up beggars belief. There must be a public inquiry looking into people at the highest level. The Lord Advocate must be called to account for this." Her father, Iain, a former policeman who has campaigned ceaselessly on his daughter's behalf, said: "It is becoming clearer and clearer by the minute that this was far from an honest mistake and the fact that our First Minister should stand up in the Scottish Parliament and say so is unbelievable." Alex Neil, the Nationalist MSP, who has campaigned for years on the case, said: "It is clear from the Mackay report that the Lord Advocate has got no option but to resign. If he doesn't resign then there will be a motion of no confidence placed in the Parliament calling for him to do so. But the other big question is did Jack McConnell know? If he did, then his position is totally unsustainable as well."

    Mike Russell, the former MSP who has battled for the McKie family since their ordeal began, said: "We now know that Shirley McKie's nightmare should have ended years earlier. "For every day she has to suffer there needs to be an explanation, and it is now certain that the explanation is one of carelessness, incompetence and dereliction of duty at the highest level that shames Scotland." Robert Black, professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University, said: "I find it inconceivable that after the Crown commissioned this report that the Lord Advocate would not have seen it."

    The Mackay report was ordered by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMCIC) in June 2000. In August that year, four fingerprint experts were suspended. The next month, the Crown Office ordered an extension of the inquiry to other fingerprint anomalies in the case. On October 20, Mackay's completed report was submitted to the Crown Office and HMCIC. A Scottish Executive spokesman said matters arising from the inquiry were a matter for the Crown Office. A spokesman for the Crown Office said: "In light of the Mackay report, Crown counsel instructed the regional procurator fiscal of North Strathclyde to carry out an independent investigation. "On receipt of that report, Crown counsel gave careful consideration to all the material, including the Mackay report, and concluded there was insufficient reliable evidence to found a prosecution."

  • Injustice has a long Scottish pedigree 9 February 2006
    Good luck to Shirley McKie. No amount of money will compensate her for the trauma she and her family have been through but at least she should have no more financial concerns. Much criticism has been heaped on the Scottish Executive, and rightly so, as this settlement could have been made years ago. But, unfortunately, this is par for the course when dealing with the "establishment" in any way, shape or form. What starts out as "an honest mistake" quickly becomes a dishonest cover-up. Misinformation and half-truths quickly become lies, in the scramble to cover backs and abdicate responsibility for anything. At least Miss McKie was able to bring her persecutors into court. Some of us have not been so lucky, particularly in the area of false accusation of sexual abuse, where the law on duty of care to third parties makes some members of the establishment untouchable, no matter how many lies they tell, no matter how many "honest mistakes" they make and no matter how stupid or incompetent they are. There should be a public inquiry into the McKie case because there is something intrinsically evil about a system that is prepared to destroy individuals and their families rather than admit a mistake has been made.

    Hers is not the only injustice that should be addressed. Five people who were arrested in the debacle of the Western Isles child-abuse case were totally innocent of all charges, but their names are still in the public domain charged with obscene sexual offences. Of the nine people originally charged, the authorities claim only four were guilty; but in refusing to name the guilty parties, they have stigmatised the innocent. Those responsible cannot be called to account because they are untouchable and even when there is ample evidence of negligence, followed by cover-up, more often than not early retirement is the preferred solution. So all parties are satisfied, except the falsely accused. Those MSPs whose concern about the justice system in Scotland has been fuelled by the McKie case are way behind the times. This form of injustice has a long pedigree in Scotland.
    Jim Fairlie, Woodstock, Ferntower Road, Crieff.

    In the light of the settlement in the Shirley McKie case, one wonders how many times she and her father, who also served in the police, brought charges based upon the evidence of fingerprints. Should all of these people now be released or compensated as Ms McKie and her father no longer believe in the accuracy of fingerprint evidence, although they were happy enough to do so when it suited them?
    C Crawford, Milverton Avenue, Bearsden. Will there be an apology for 'honest mistake'? At last Shirley McKie's wait is over. She has been awarded what appears to be a grand sum of £750,000 in an out-of-court settlement on the basis that an "honest mistake was made in good faith". How very convenient for, and no doubt on the insistence of, the executive, responsible for the Scottish Criminal Record Office. At least it saves the young lady the trauma of appearing at court once again to reiterate the truth that she and her father have championed all these years. Will the SCRO officers who made this "honest mistake in good faith" now admit their mistake and offer publicly an apology to Shirley? Only then could full closure in this matter be accomplished. It has been rumoured until recently that members of the SCRO still are of the opinion that they had made no mistake.
    Robert McLaughlin, 77 Braemar Court, Hazelden Gardens, Glasgow.

    Many congratulations to Shirley McKie, her family and all those who have stood with her against the most blatant official cover-up in history. Nobody can now be in any doubt that the case brought against her was false. There must now be a full public inquiry so that the relevant elements in the Scottish police force, Crown Prosecution Service and, most especially, the SCRO are held to account for their appalling behaviour, criminal incompetence and spitefully ignorant vindictiveness towards a woman who dared to stand up to them. There must also be a re-examination of every case in which the SCRO has been involved in fingerprint evidence. It must be carried out by an agency that can tell one fingerprint from another, which criteria would appear to exclude the SCRO. Otherwise, there can be no confidence that justice has been done in any of them.
    Stuart Morrison, 55 Hughenden Lane, Glasgow.