Cash appeal for McKie case review

CAMPAIGNERS have launched a "fighting fund" to lobby for an inquiry into the Shirley McKie case.

Iain McKie, the father of the policewoman wrongly accused of leaving a fingerprint at a murder scene, said he hoped to raise between 50,000 and 100,000 from the public for a legal campaign.

After a call for a public inquiry was defeated in parliament on Wednesday, the money will fund the cost of lobbying for a judicial review. If that process is unsuccessful, the money could fund a private prosecution, Mr McKie said.

Last month Ms McKie won 750,000 in an out-of-court payment by the Executive at the end of a nine-year legal battle. But opposition politicians and a host of campaigners have called for a public inquiry into allegations of criminality within the fingerprint department of the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO).

Mr McKie said the plan for a fighting fund followed a groundswell in public support. He said: "

We are first of all going to seek a judicial review of the government's decision not to have an inquiry.

If that is not successful, we are going to look at a private prosecution. To do that we need cash."

Mr McKie said he did not want to use his daughter's settlement money to fund the appeal. If the fighting fund money is not used to finance a judicial review or a private prosecution, it would be donated to a justice charity.

The announcement came after a meeting between Mr McKie and Jim Swire, the father of a Lockerbie victim. The two men have asked for revelations suggesting a link between the McKie case and the Pan Am bombing trial to be explored at the inquiry.

A former Lockerbie investigator has told The Scotsman that the FBI wanted the McKie case "swept under the carpet" to avoid any embarrassment about doubtful fingerprint evidence.

The Lord Advocate has insisted there was no link between the two cases.

Mr McKie and Mr Swire said they still sought answers to several questions - such as the role of Harry Bell, the head of the SCRO and a key investigator in the Lockerbie trial.

Mr Swire, who lost his 24-year-old daughter, Flora, in the Pan Am air disaster in 1988, said he, the McKie family and observers across the world needed explanations. He said: "The reputation of our country and its criminal system will depend upon how these cases are sorted out."

In the history of modern Scots law, no more than a couple of private prosecutions have succeeded. Such prosecutions, which substitute privately-hired lawyers in place of the Crown, require the consent of the Lord Advocate, who has already denied there was any criminality in the McKie case.

During Question Time in parliament yesterday, Jack McConnell insisted it was "time to move on" .

The First Minister said: "A move towards a settlement last year resulted in a letter from Miss McKie's father to the minister for justice, thanking her for her approach and welcoming the steps she was then taking.

"I think that was a positive indication from the McKie family that they welcomed that approach at that time."

Opposition leaders challenged Mr McConnell to a free vote over a public inquiry. The Nationalists' leader at Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon, made the call a day after ministers survived an opposition onslaught over their stance on the McKie affair.

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