Glasgow & West Scotland

McKie fingerprint expert wins dismissal case at Supreme Court

Fiona McBride Image copyright Not Specified
Image caption Fiona McBride has won her case for unfair dismissal at the UK Supreme Court

A fingerprint officer who was sacked over the Shirley McKie scandal has won her case for unfair dismissal.

Fiona McBride was one of four experts who said a fingerprint at a crime scene was that of police officer, Ms McKie.

This was later seen as an error and Ms McKie received £750,000 compensation.

A disputed finding from an employment tribunal in 2009, that Ms McBride had been unfairly dismissed and should be awarded compensation, has now been upheld by judges at the Supreme Court.

The five judges in London have also sent her case back to the original tribunal so that it may determine an increased amount of compensation.

Murder scene

The case dates back to January 1997, when Ms McKie - then a detective constable with Strathclyde Police - was alleged to have left a fingerprint at a murder scene in Ayrshire.

She denied defying orders to stay out of the house where Marion Ross's body had been found.

However, Ms McKie was arrested and charged with perjury. She was subsequently acquitted.

An inquiry by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary in 2000 backed Ms McKie and recommended an overhaul of procedures at the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) which carried out the fingerprint analysis.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Shirley McKie accepted £750,000 damages from Scottish ministers

Ms McKie was awarded £750,000 compensation after Scottish ministers accepted that there had been an error in identifying the suspect fingerprint as hers.

Four fingerprint officers involved in the case - including Ms McBride - were suspended from duty in 2001.

An independent investigation followed and they were reinstated in 2002, but not allowed to carry out their normal duties.

In 2007, the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) was incorporated into the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA).

While the consolidation was being planned in 2006, the four fingerprint officials were offered a deal to leave their jobs.

Three of them accepted redundancy in March 2007 but Ms McBride declined and was eventually sacked.

Compensation ruling

She took the case to an employment tribunal which ruled in 2009 that the SPSA had unfairly dismissed Ms McBride.

The tribunal awarded her £31,000 compensation and ordered her reinstatement as a fingerprint officer.

The SPSA contested the decision at an employment appeal tribunal, which ruled in their favour.

Ms McBride then took her case to the Court of Session where three judges also ruled against her reinstatement.

The former fingerprint officer appealed again to the Supreme Court where her case was heard by Lady Hale, sitting with Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed and Lord Hodge.

In a unanimous written opinion, delivered by Lord Hodge, the court ruled that the findings of the original employment tribunal - reinstatement of Ms McBride with compensation - should stand.

The Supreme Court also said that in light of the time that had passed, the case should be remitted back to the tribunal to allow for the level of compensation to be revised.

'Back to work'

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

Reacting to the judgement, 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.

"Now, thanks to the support of my solicitors...and the five judges who heard my appeal, this is now possible."

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 judgement in what is the latest in a long-running legacy employment issue.

"SPA will consider the details of the judgement carefully in determining its response and next steps."

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