66% of public support inquiry into McKie case

TWO-thirds of people in Scotland think that there should be an inquiry into the Shirley McKie case, a new survey has revealed.

The Scottish Executive has refused a public inquiry into the case of Ms McKie, the policewoman who was wrongly accused of leaving a fingerprint at a murder scene. Instead, the Executive favoured a parliamentary inquiry to ensure the accuracy of the fingerprint system.

However, supporters of Ms McKie say that her case, which stretched over nine years and which has seen the Scottish Executive, the police service and even the FBI accused of a cover up, deserves a public inquiry.

Now a Yougov survey of more than 1,600 people, which was commissioned by the Scottish National Party, has found that 66 per cent of people think there should be a public inquiry, 10 per cent do not think there should be an inquiry and 24 per cent did not know.

Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, was surprised at just how decisive support was for a public inquiry into the complicated case. "It indicates the overwhelming view of the Scottish public that there needs to be a public inquiry and judicial inquiry," he said.

"It is not enough to have matters swept under the carpet for any longer and it certainly cannot be tolerated [that] documents are being withheld from the parliamentary inquiry.

"The people of Scotland are asking what has the Lord Advocate and the previous justice minister, Jim Wallace, got to hide that they resist so trenchantly the calls for a public inquiry."

Ms McKie, a former police officer, from Troon, Ayrshire, was wrongly accused of leaving her fingerprint at the home of the murder victim, Marion Ross, in 1997. Ms McKie was later cleared of perjury and sued the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO). In February this year, she received 750,000 from the Executive in an out-of-court settlement.

Iain McKie, her father, said that he was not surprised by the poll's findings. "The letters and e-mails I get show how many people want this inquiry.

"The only people who do not want the inquiry are the Scottish Executive and Scottish Criminal Records Office and some quarters of the police service."

He said the parliamentary inquiry was fine for looking into the accuracy of the fingerprint service, but a public inquiry was needed to examine the wider implications of the case.

Mr McKie added: "There is a need for this, not only looking at the Shirley McKie case, because this case represents many other cases in Scotland where injustice has been done and the time is long overdue for a close look at the actions - or inactions - of the Scottish Executive, the Lord Advocate, the First Minister, the justice ministers and the police."

Mr McKie is preparing an application to the Court of Session calling for a judicial review of whether there should be a public inquiry.

However, the Scottish Executive claims that the parliamentary inquiry will restore public and professional confidence in the Scottish Fingerprint Service.

It insists that the role of other agencies has already been investigated by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and that the recommendations arising out of that investigation, in 2000, have been acted on.

The Executive claims that a public inquiry is not appropriate and that it is the responsibility of the parliament to hold the Scottish Executive to account.

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