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 'Relief' over fingerprint verdict

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PostSubject: 'Relief' over fingerprint verdict   Wed Sep 03, 2008 1:31 pm

A former police officer wrongly accused of leaving her fingerprint at a murder scene has won £750,000 in compensation.

Shirley McKie had sued the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Criminal Records Office over the seven-year row.

Ms McKie, 33, who had been accused of perjury and lost her job with Strathclyde Police, described her "shock and relief" at the verdict.

The executive said the case had been traumatic for Ms McKie, but that it had made an honest mistake in "good faith".

Ms McKie, from Troon, in Ayrshire, was cleared of lying on oath in 1999 after insisting that a fingerprint found at the scene of the murder of a Kilmarnock woman was not hers.

BBC Scotland's Frontline investigation team featured her case and raised questions about the forensic evidence.

Experts from the US discredited the Scottish Criminal Records Office's findings.

She had sued her employer for malicious prosecution, but lost the case in February 2002 and was hit with a legal bill from Strathclyde Police.

The whole thing has been surreal and I felt Elvis Presley would appear before the case ended
Shirley McKie

An anonymous donor paid the resulting £13,000 legal bill after it emerged Ms McKie was on medication for depression after facing bankruptcy.

She then launched an action for damages against Scottish ministers, who are responsible for the Scottish Criminal Records Office, which was later found to have bungled the fingerprint evidence against her.

Speaking after the verdict, Ms McKie said the people responsible for her ordeal knew who they were and she urged the authorities to prosecute them.

"The whole thing has been surreal and I felt Elvis Presley would appear before the case ended," she said.

'Cover-up'

"There is a lot of good people in Strathclyde Police and a lot of good people in the SCRO, but the people who have done this and are responsible for this know who they are.

"I do hope that the people responsible are made to be accountable for what they have done. There are serious criminal charges should come from this.

"It has been obvious for years there were criminal goings on in this case and it has been continually covered up," she added.

Lawyers for the executive said the out-of-court settlement was payment without admission of liability.

This settlement has been made on the basis that the identification was an honest mistake made in good faith
Scottish Executive

Asked about the refusal to admit liability, Ms McKie said: "It is shocking but they know they are wrong. Unfortunately that saying always seems to be there."

Her father, Iain, 66, said: "There is nothing wrong with fingerprinting. There is just something sadly wrong with the SCRO and fingerprinting in Scotland and that needs to be sorted out."

'Stressful period'

In a statement, the executive said ministers were pleased to have reached a settlement with Ms McKie.

"We indicated some time ago that the best way forward would be to resolve matters without proceeding to litigation," it said.

"We want to make it clear however that this settlement has been made on the basis that the identification was an honest mistake made in good faith. "The ongoing litigation has been a stressful period for Ms McKie and her family. It has also been a difficult period for the Scottish fingerprint service and its staff.

"Nine years on from this unfortunate but honest mistake there is now a real opportunity for everyone involved in this sad affair to move on - personally and professionally."

Scottish National Party MSP Alex Neil called for an immediate public inquiry into the way fingerprint evidence was analysed.

He said: "This public inquiry must focus on all parties involved, including the police, Scottish Criminal Records Office, Crown Office and up to the Scottish Office. Cathy Jamieson, as Justice Minister, has a lot of explaining to do in particular."
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/scotland/4689218.stm

Published: 2006/02/07 14:11:40 GMT
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