McKie in angry clashes with MSPs over print questions

Key quote

"They went along as hired guns to put forward the case of constituent members of the SCRO, who they claim to represent. They have been discredited and it doesn't serve them to persist in their painful attack on Ms McKie." - KENNY MACASKILL, SNP

Story in full SHIRLEY McKie, the former detective who was wrongly accused of lying over a fingerprint left at a murder scene, yesterday angrily accused MSPs of putting her on trial again.

Ms McKie was cleared of perjury in 1999 after challenging the evidence of fingerprint experts working for the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) who accused her of leaving a fingerprint at the Kilmarnock home of a murder victim, Marion Ross.

In February, Ms McKie was awarded 750,000 in an out-of-court settlement by the Scottish Executive following a nine-year battle to clear her name.

The McKie case has led to calls for an inquiry into Scotland's fingerprint service and yesterday she gave evidence at a parliamentary inquiry into the SCRO, the first time she has spoken publicly about the case.

But rather than focusing on the future direction of the service, Ms McKie found the tables were turned on her when two MSPs - neither of whom is on the justice 1 committee - questioned her about evidence that contradicted her own account of events.

Angry scenes developed when Des McNulty, the Clydebank and Milngavie MSP, asked her legal adviser, Andrew Smith, QC, about a report by an independent fingerprint expert, Peter Swann.

Mr Swann had been approached by Ms McKie's legal team after she was accused of perjury, to give an expert opinion on the print that four SCRO officers had identified as hers. His evidence was never used in her defence case after he identified the mark as being Ms McKie's.

An angry Ms McKie asked him: "Are you actually putting me on trial again, are you actually questioning my integrity, is that what you're doing?"

She insisted: "I'm here to assist this inquiry and I just do not see the relevance of these questions and I'm totally insulted by them. The reason Mr Swann wasn't used for the defence was he was wrong and incompetent. I answered every single question at my trial honestly, unlike some people."

But Mr McNulty read out part of the transcript from her perjury trial in May 1999, when she had said that she did not know who had examined the fingerprint mark. He then referred to a letter from Ms McKie to her lawyers, asking about the brief prepared for Mr Swann.

The Labour MSP asked: "Does that not seem to be a slightly strange juxtaposition?"

Ms McKie's father, Iain McKie, who also attended the session, said: "My daughter has already said she's not on trial. Mr McNulty is trying to put her on trial." And he told him: "You have just read out a totally biased version of what happened in court."

Mr McNulty was joined at the meeting by Ken Macintosh, the Eastwood MSP. The four SCRO officers who maintain that they correctly identified the print are constituents of the two MSPs.

Mr Macintosh asked Ms McKie more questions about her defence case and raised the issue of why allegations were still being made against her. A clearly frustrated and upset Ms McKie replied: "The First Minister said this was an honest mistake, so why don't you go and ask him?"

She asked: "What else do you want me to say?" adding: "You're being unfair, extremely unfair. I'm the innocent person here."

Mr McKie asked the MSP: "Are you accusing my daughter of perjury?" Mr Macintosh said: "I'm not - she's been cleared of perjury."

Ms McKie then branded the line of questioning being taken as "disgusting".

Earlier, Pauline McNeill, the convener of the committee, explained that the investigation was looking at the SCRO and said: "This is a parliamentary inquiry, it's not a judicial inquiry." She added: "Our overriding aim must be to help restore public confidence in the standards of fingerprint evidence in Scotland."

Ms McKie was too upset to speak outside the committee room, but Mr McKie criticised the two MSPs for asking questions "based on gossip, hearsay and lies".

Last night, Kenny MacAskill, the justice spokesman for the Scottish National Party, accused Mr McNulty and Mr Mcintosh of "shameful behaviour".

He said: "They have acted as if they are out to damage her rather than investigate the clear injustice that has arisen in the Scottish legal system.

"They went along as hired guns to put forward the case of constituent members of the SCRO, who they claim to represent. They have been discredited and it doesn't serve them to persist in their painful attack on Ms McKie."

Last night, Mr McNulty said he had raised questions because he believed Ms McKie had obtained justice while his constituent, one of the SCRO officers involved in the case, was still under a form of suspicion.

Asked if it was morally correct to question Ms McKie again like this, he said: "My constituent and three of Kenneth Macintosh's have endured six years of unwarranted accusations. They have never been given a chance to clear their names properly.

"I feel a great deal of sympathy for Shirley McKie - the case has gone on for so long. But I feel an equal amount of sympathy for these officers whose names have been dragged through a succession of processes. They deserve our consideration as well.

"In effect, if people are making accusations against others they should be held to account.

"I hope we [himself and Mr Macintosh] don't become villains of the piece in this - we are only acting in the interests of our constituents."

Back to the top of the page