SORRY CATHY NOT GOOD ENOUGH HEN, PAYING LIP SERVICE WILL NOT SUFFICE, A PUBLIC INQUIRY IS WHAT THE PUBLIC NEEDS AND WANTS - BILKO
Minister hints at fingerprint bureau inquiry
MICHAEL HOWIE AND RUSSELL FALLIS
CATHY Jamieson, the justice minister, signalled yesterday that she was willing to order a review of the work of Scotland's fingerprints bureau - but she brushed aside calls for a public inquiry into the Shirley McKie case.
Demands for an independent investigation have grown since ministers agreed a £750,000 out-of-court settlement with the former Strathclyde police officer in her damages claim against the Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO).
Ms McKie, 42, was wrongly accused of leaving her fingerprint at a murder scene in 1997 and has fought a nine-year court battle to clear her name.
The case has led to claims of a cover-up and growing pressure for a full-scale public inquiry to restore faith in the Scottish Fingerprint Service (SFS), which is part of the SCRO.
But in an interview with BBC Radio Scotland yesterday, Ms Jamieson insisted: "My position and the Executive's position on this has not changed over the past week."
She rejected claims by Pat Wertheim, an American fingerprint expert, that the SFS was a "laughing stock" but suggested she would welcome a general inquiry into its work, possibly by a committee of MSPs.
Ms Jamieson said: "I'm very open to the notion that we can look again at what happens in relation to the SCRO, which is my responsibility, for the overall policy."
However, she repeatedly said responsibility for decisions on criminal prosecutions lay with the Lord Advocate, acting independently of politicians.
Last Friday, Colin Boyd, QC, the Lord Advocate, defended his decision to prosecute Ms McKie, based on the evidence available to him at the time.
He also said there was "no question" of criminal proceedings against SCRO experts after an investigation by senior police officers, despite reports that this had suggested there was evidence of criminality.
Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, said a review of SCRO procedures was not enough. "To get behind what looks like a monumental political cover-up demands a public inquiry," he said.
There were fresh calls for an inquiry yesterday after claims FBI agents had intervened in the case due to concerns that questions about the reliability of fingerprinting in Scotland could scupper the trial of the Lockerbie bombing suspects.