£50,000 is pledged to Shirley McKie fighting fund

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A FIGHTING fund has been set up by Shirley McKie's supporters to pay for a private prosecution against fingerprint experts accused of conspiring against her.

Two anonymous donors already have pledged 50,000 to help to meet the cost of a private prosecution, the Scotsman has learned.

Ms McKie's lawyers also are examining ways they could force a public inquiry into the affair - something Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, and Jack McConnell, the First Minister, have insisted will not take place.

A judicial review, which could see a panel of judges effectively overturn that decision, is understood to be the most likely option for her legal team.

Yesterday, Ms McKie's father, Iain McKie, said he would not rest until the facts behind the hugely controversial case emerge. That will happen, he vowed, "by hook or by crook".

Earlier this month Ms McKie, 43, from Troon, Ayrshire, agreed a 750,000 out-of-court settlement in her damages case against the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO), following a nine-year battle to clear her name over a fingerprint at a murder scene that was wrongly attributed to her.

The row over the single print has put Scotland's fingerprint service under intense scrutiny and threatens to seriously undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system.

Ms McKie was charged with perjury after a murder trial in which she denied that the print was hers. Four fingerprint experts - Hugh Macpherson, Charles Stewart, Fiona McBride and Anthony McKenna - said the print was hers and three gave evidence at her trial in 1999.

Ms McKie was found not guilty and launched a damages claim over what she still claims was a "malicious" prosecution. Ms McKie chose to settle out of court after the Scottish Executive agreed to meet her claim as the case was to be heard in court.

The Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, decided not to prosecute anyone in the SCRO due to conflicting evidence, and earlier this month Mr McConnell told parliament that an "honest mistake" had been made.

But Ms McKie's supporters remain convinced that the SCRO, civil servants and government ministers have been involved in a massive cover-up and are determined to have the case blown open.

Mr McKie last night said their last resort was a private prosecution with privately-hired lawyers taking the place of the Crown, and he revealed that two individuals already had pledged 25,000 each to help him pursue such an option.

He said the prosecution would be directed at the four SCRO experts, as well as the supervisors Alan Dunbar and Robert McKenzie.

Mr McKie said: "We have had hundreds of letters and e-mails of support. I've not had a chance to reply to them all but hopefully, when things calm down, I will."

He added that the possibility of applying for a judicial review into the Executive's refusal to carry out a public inquiry was something "we are currently looking at". Mr McKie said: "Evidence is there to be heard, and by hook or by crook, it will be heard.

"We will pursue every possible means to have this matter aired in court, whether it's by a public inquiry or a private prosecution."

Only two private prosecutions have been held in Scotland in the last 100 years.

The four fingerprint experts who testified against Ms McKie claim the allegations against them are "malicious and unfounded".

Miss McBride has publicly welcomed the prospect of a private prosecution, saying she and her colleagues have been "robbed" of the chance of their day in court. An SCRO spokeswoman said: "We continue to have every confidence in our staff who deliver a sound, professional service."

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