McKie case expert fights to win job back

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A FINGERPRINT expert who lost her job over the Shirley McKie scandal yesterday launched a legal bid to be reinstated.

Fiona McBride is claiming unfair dismissal after being asked to leave her post with the Scottish Criminal Records Office in May last year following more than 22 years service

Miss McBride, of Clydebank, was one of four fingerprint officers who identified a mark left at a murder scene as belonging to former Strathclyde Police detective Shirley McKie in 1997.

Miss McKie was later tried and acquitted of perjury relating to the case.

The ex-policewoman was awarded 750,000 in compensation from the Scottish Government in 2006. Three SCRO officers accepted redundancy in March last year.

Miss McBride has taken her case to the employment tribunal in Glasgow where the panel began hearing evidence yesterday.

Witness David Mulhern, chief executive of the Scottish Police Services Authority, a body formed last year which incorporated the SCRO, said that the McKie affair had damaged staff morale at the Glasgow Fingerprint Bureau.

Mr Mulhern said he found a 20 per cent absence rate among employees.

"There was this debilitating impact of the McKie mark," he told the tribunal.

The panel heard that the four experts, including Miss McBride, were suspended from duty in 2001 by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland. An independent investigation followed and they were reinstated a year later, but were not allowed to carry out their normal duties.

Members of the Scottish Parliament's Justice 1 Committee carried out a lengthy investigation into the fingerprint service in the wake of the case.

Giving evidence to the inquiry in September 2006, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd said any future trial the fingerprint experts were involved in would be overshadowed by their links to the case.

He told MSPs: "My concern is that if any of the officers were to be called as witnesses, their position, frankly, is now so – and I don't mean it pejoratively – notorious."

Mr Mulhern said he "fully agreed" with the Lord Advocate's comments.

The future of the four fingerprint officers and two other staff involved in the McKie case was discussed, with four employees eventually opting for early retirement and one redeployed to another area, the tribunal heard. Miss McBride, 43, was the only one of the six workers to transfer to the SPSA.

The hearing continues.