Shirley McKie family hope to find answers in released documents

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THE father of former policewoman Shirley McKie has welcomed a decision by the Information Commissioner ordering the Scottish Government to release 131 documents relating to his daughter's case and the competence of the country's fingerprints experts.

The family of the former police officer hope that along with the ongoing Fingerprint Inquiry, a judicial review chaired by Sir Anthony Campbell, they will provide the answers they have fought for this past 14 years.

Iain McKie said: "All that is left is to ascertain what happened in the corridors of power, why it took 14 years to resolve itself, and make sure lessons are learned.

"We believe more than 630 documents were not given to the judicial inquiry and we feel they should have been. What they will tell us remains to be seen.

"The culture of secrecy in Scotland is a disgrace, it marks everything it touches. We have a secretive government in Scotland, they don't like giving out information.

"It's important we have a forensic service in Scotland that is up to the job. I don't think we do have."

Of the 638 documents identified, Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion accepted the Scottish Government was right to withhold 507, but should release 111 in their entirety, and parts of a further 20.

Mr McKie said: "This might finally help us to find out why the Scottish Government has been determined to hide this matter. Her case was in 1999, the same year as the Lockerbie trial. The last thing they wanted was for the Scottish Forensic Service to be seen in a bad light at that time."

Ms McKie was arrested in 1997 after Scottish experts claimed her fingerprints were found at the crime scene where Marion Ross was murdered. She denied ever being in the house and was eventually cleared of perjury and awarded a 750,000 compensation settlement.

However, even in the face of contradicting opinions from foreign experts, the Scottish Fingerprint Service maintained the prints were hers and refused to apologise.

It is not yet known whether the Scottish Government will appeal the commissioner's decision, although the SNP called for greater disclosure when in opposition and announced the judicial review once in power.

Mr Dunion said: "The Shirley McKie case has involved considerable public expense, affected the lives of many individuals, and called the Scottish fingerprint service into question.

"There is a significant public interest in knowing that Scotland has a fingerprint service which ensures that correct identifications are made, so that justice can be served."

He added: "The principle of maintaining confidentiality in the communications between a client and their legal adviser is a basic condition for the administration of justice. Had I found evidence in the information of wrong doing, or of unreasonable or reprehensible behaviour on the part of ministers, the public interest outcome may well have been very different. However, I found no such evidence in my review of the information.

"The balance of the public interest therefore lay in maintaining the confidentiality of these sensitive communications."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We have received the Information Commissioner's decision and are considering its terms."