Calls for a full public enquiry into McKie fingerprint case

Eddie Barnes, political editor of Scotland on Sunday, looks at the case of former Detective Constable Shirley McKie who had been accused of entering a crime scene without authorisation, and leaving her fingerprints there. She was suspended from her job and charged with perjury, after claiming in court she had never set foot in the house where a brutal murder had taken place. She was also humiliated by her former colleagues.

On 3 August 2000, a report produced by James Mackay, former Deputy Chief Constable of Tayside police, was presented to the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland (ACPOS). In the report, "which had been kept secret for six years, and which was never acted upon by Scotland's chief prosecutor, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd", claims were made that fingerprint experts at the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) had mistakenly attributed fingerprint evidence to McKie and had acted criminally to cover up their mistakes.

"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."

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 it was stated: "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'."

Last week, before being confronted with today's revelations, the Scottish Executive claimed it had never been given sight of Mackay's final report - the e-mail exchange mentioned above was based on "interim information provided to the Executive in the year 2000 around the time of the suspension decision."

There is now growing pressure for a full public enquiry.

Cover-up, conspiracy and the Lockerbie bomb connection (Editorial, Scotland on Sunday, 19 February 2006)