Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Scottish fingerprint enquiry

See previous comments here on July 21, 2008 and Feb 18, 2007. There is no doubt that Scottish fingerprint evidence has been discredited but why, how and by whom remains open. My best guess is that there was an attempt by senior male police to get rid of an unwanted female cop. But why they would go to the length of exposing her to a long jail term is a mystery

The Lord Advocate, Scotland's most senior law officer, is to take the unprecedented step of appearing before a public inquiry. Elish Angiolini will give evidence voluntarily at a judicial inquiry into the Shirley McKie fingerprint case. The Crown Office confirmed that it was believed to be the first time that a Lord Advocate would appear at a public inquiry.

Critics claim that the Shirley McKie affair, which has been one of the most enduring controversies of devolution, has cast a shadow over the Scottish justice system. Ms McKie, a former policewoman from Troon in Ayrshire, was accused of leaving her fingerprint at the Kilmarnock home of the murder victim Marion Ross in 1997. At the murder trial of David Asbury she denied leaving a print at the scene, even though fingerprint experts working for the Scottish Criminal Record Office maintained that it was hers.

After the trial was concluded — Mr Asbury was convicted of Ms Ross's murder but later acquitted — Ms McKie was charged with perjury. She was put on trial in 1999 and found not guilty.

In February 2006, following a long battle to clear her name, Ms McKie was awarded an out-of-court settlement of 750,000 pounds by the then Labour-led Scottish Executive. Although Ms Angiolini was not Lord Advocate at the time, her predecessor, Lord Boyd of Duncansby, QC, came under attack for failing to prosecute the fingerprint experts who insisted that the print belonged to Ms McKie.

Ms Angiolini's role in the public inquiry was revealed yesterday during an initial hearing. Sir Anthony Campbell, who is chairman of the inquiry, named the Lord Advocate as one of 15 core participants who will give evidence at the inquiry. Core participants, who may represent themselves or be represented by a lawyer, are eligible to have a wide role in the inquiry, including applying to examine oral witnesses. Ms Angiolini will be represented by the Crown Agent, Norman McFadyen.

Stephen House, the chief constable of Strathclyde Police, has also been designated a core participant, along with Ms McKie, her father Iain McKie, and Mr Asbury. Others include the fingerprint expert Peter Swann, who was consulted originally by Ms McKie's defence lawyers but became convinced that the print belonged to her, and Pat Wertheim, one of the two US fingerprint experts who helped to clear Ms McKie of perjury by proving in court that the mark — known as “Y7” — did not belong to her.

The inquiry will look at the steps taken to identify and verify the fingerprints associated with the perjury trial. It will also make recommendations as to what measures may be introduced to ensure that any shortcomings are avoided in the future. Mr McKie called on Sir Anthony to use his powers to put all the witnesses under oath, and urged Lord Boyd and the former justice ministers, Cathy Jamieson and Jim Wallace, who were in office during the scandal, to give evidence.

Ken McIntosh, the Labour MSP for Eastwood, who has long defended the four fingerprint experts who lost their jobs following the misidentification, said that the hearings would provide an opportunity to show they have been the “real victims” of the affair. “Despite all the inquiries saying they have done a professional job they continue to be portrayed as responsible for the fate of Ms McKie,” he said.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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