Fingerprint expert wins Supreme Court bid to get job back

Fingerprint expert Fiona McBride who was unfairly dismissed. Picture: PA
Fingerprint expert Fiona McBride who was unfairly dismissed. Picture: PA
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A fingerprint officer who was unfairly dismissed over the Shirley McKie case has won her fight at the UK’s highest court to be reinstated.

Fiona McBride was one of four fingerprint experts who misidentified a mark left at a murder scene as that of former Strathclyde Police detective McKie in 1997. Ms McKie went on to win £750,000 in an out-of-court settlement

Ms McBride took her case to an employment tribunal after being asked to leave her post with the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) in May 2007 after almost 23 years.

In 2009, after it found that her dismissal was unfair and ordered her full reinstatement to the position of fingerprint officer. The Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) accepted the decision that the dismissal was unfair but challenged the order to give Ms McBride her job back.

The case went to an employment appeal tribunal and the Inner House of the Court of Session, which ruled against re-instatement but said a tribunal should look again at compensation. Ms McBride, 48, from Clydebank, went to the Supreme Court and yesterday five justices unanimously allowed her appeal.

As a result, Ms McBride is to be reinstated and is entitled to the payments due under the Employment Rights Act 1996 for the period since her dismissal until the reinstatement takes effect.

The justices remitted her case to the original employment tribunal to assess those sums.

Ms McKie was accused of leaving her fingerprint at the Kilmarnock home of murder victim Marion Ross but she challenged the findings of the fingerprint experts and was later cleared of perjury before winning compensation.

In 2011, a public judicial inquiry concluded that Ms McBride and her colleagues had not acted improperly in identifying the fingerprint.

The Supreme Court will determine at a later date if the Scottish Police Authority will have to pay Ms McBride’s costs.

Ms McBride said her case was never about Shirley McKie for whom she had “felt very sorry for”.

“I have been fighting since 2007 to get my job back and I am delighted that the UK Supreme Court has sided with me,” she said.

“From the outset I was not interested in compensation for the loss of my job. I just wanted it back.”

Ms McBride added: “Now I am just looking forward very much to getting back to work.

A spokesperson for Scottish Police Authority said: “We note the judgment in what is the latest in a long-running legacy employment issue.

“SPA will consider the details carefully in determining its response and next steps.”

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