Wednesday, February 22, 2006

McKie questions go to parliament

The Shirley McKie fingerprint case is becoming increasingly difficult for the Scottish Executive to ignore:

"The lord advocate and the justice minister are expected to make statements to the Scottish Parliament on the Shirley McKie fingerprint case.

Calls for a public inquiry into the treatment of Ms McKie have grown since her £750,000 compensation award."
The last sentence is something of an understatement; the demand for a public enquiry is the most universal and non-partisan as I can remember seeing anywhere at anytime.

Some details of this case became clearer (to me, anyway - most people following the case were already aware of this) following the report on Newsnight Scotland that the SCRO admitted privately some six years ago that the internet version of the print that had erroneously connected Shirley McKie to the crime scene where Marion Ross was murdered was indeed the same one that some 170-odd fingerprint experts used to confirm Shirley McKie innocent of perjury. Yet more recently, it had been implied that the internet version of the print was unreliable, or at least its veracity couldn't be confirmed.

The crux of the matter is that it is simply not good enough for the Executive to say an "honest mistake" was made; what is required is some kind of explanation of how the SCRO arrived at their original conclusion. And beyond this, the point where the impression of dishonesty can be shrugged-off has long since past - not least because of the bizarre intervention by the Lord Advocate appearing to suggest that fingerprint analysis was more art than science.

This case has implications for the reputation of Scottish criminal justice and the international community of fingerprint analysis. The FBI intervened in the debate to express concern that this uncertainty could jeopardise the trial of the Lockerbie bombers - which is being conducted under Scots law. Meanwhile, the killer of Marion Ross is still at large.

Update: Memos expose doubts and division of print experts in McKie case - from the Scotsman.

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