|Posted on Friday, September 20, 2002 - 06:00 pm: ||
On 19 September Allan Bayle and Michael Russell, Shirley’s Member of the Scottish Parliament, handed in a unique petition to the Scottish Parliament on behalf of Allan, David Grieve, Pat Wertheim and Arie Zeelenberg.
In the petition, shown in full below, they stated that the current SCRO controversy is,
‘…..threatening to the reputation and integrity of Scottish fingerprint and forensic evidence, damaging to the science of fingerprinting world-wide and has the potential to seriously and adversely impact on the administration and fair delivery of justice in Scotland.’
The experts believe that the SCRO is using the fiction that,
‘…..fingerprint evidence is a matter of opinion……to cover up errors by experts within the SCRO.’
They have asked the Scottish Parliament to call on the services of Canadian expert David Ashbaugh to examine the situation and,
‘….. to outline what lessons can be learned regarding openness and accountability within the Scottish Criminal Records Office and how procedures for handling mistakes as outlined in recommendations of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary enquiry can best be developed’.
In an interesting development the day before the petition was delivered the Scottish Minister for Justice, in giving evidence to the Justice Committee, stated,
‘Fingerprint evidence is not an exact science. There is an ‘art form’ there, it is a skill that does involve judgement that can’t be broken down to an exact science.’
This comment was widely attacked politically for undermining the forensic sciences and being an attempt to support the SCRO contention that fingerprinting is a matter of opinion and not a science. (see news reports below)
The Minister was also attacked for failing to respond to the June petition signed by over 150 world experts who had pointed out the need for remedial action at SCRO..
Australian ABC TV is screening the first BBC ‘Panorama’ programme, ‘The Finger of Suspicion’, on Monday 23 September at 8.30pm Australian time. It will be followed by an internet debate at 9:30pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time - 12.30pm UK time.)If interested in further information log on to :
Petition to the Scottish Parliament.
Review of openness, transparency and the admission of mistakes at the Scottish Criminal Records Office.
We the undersigned work as professionals in the field of fingerprint identification.
We believe that the current position adopted by the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) to support their erroneous fingerprint identifications in the cases of Shirley McKie and David Asbury, that - “fingerprint evidence is a matter of opinion” – is unique in the world.
This position, as articulated during and after the court cases, is untenable, even in the medium term, threatening to the reputation and integrity of Scottish fingerprint and forensic evidence, damaging to the science of fingerprinting world-wide and has the potential to seriously and adversely impact on the administration and fair delivery of justice in Scotland.
While we believe that this position has been wrongfully used to cover up errors by experts within the SCRO its most important impact is to distract from proper action as proposed by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in the 2000 Primary Inspection Report on the Fingerprint Bureau of the Scottish Criminal Record Office in respect of restoring openness and accountability and instituting effective procedures for the handling of mistakes.
We maintain that such restorative action is not possible until there has been an honest admission of previous errors.
We do not believe that such a situation should be allowed to continue unchallenged and therefore have decided to petition the Scottish Parliament on the matter in order to respectfully suggest that the Parliament’s Petitions Committee or some other Committee of the Parliament undertake an enquiry into the topic to seek definitive evidence and information on the issues we raise.
We know that there is huge international interest in these cases and the world-wide fingerprint community has discussed them many times and continues to exchange information on them.
We believe that the best way to resolve the matters we raise is to commission a fingerprint expert of world renown to examine them and therefore respectfully suggest that the relevant committee of the Scottish Parliament seeks the assistance of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to obtain the services of one of the world’s foremost fingerprint experts, Staff Sergeant David Ashbaugh, in this regard.
The Scottish Parliament is also petitioned to commission Mr Ashbaugh to outline what lessons can be learned regarding openness and accountability within the Scottish Criminal Records Office and how procedures for handling mistakes as outlined in recommendations of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary enquiry can best be developed.
We append details of Mr Ashbaugh’s unique qualifications and citations in the fingerprint world and we also attach details of our own qualifications and experience. We confirm that we are also happy to do everything in our power to facilitate the petitioned review.
……………………………………. 18 September 2002..
Allan J Bayle
Signed on behalf of the Petitioners
Allan J Bayle - United Kingdom
David Grieve - United States of America
Pat A. Wertheim - United States of America
Arie Zeelenberg – The Netherlands
Experts seek fingerprint inquiry
BBC: 19 September 2002.
International experts are demanding the Scottish Parliament hold an inquiry into fingerprinting.
The move follows comments by Justice Minister Jim Wallace that fingerprinting was an art form and "not an exact science".
Four leading forensic scientists - two from the USA, one from the Netherlands and one from England - have petitioned the Scottish Parliament calling for the inquiry.
They are asking the parliament to seek the services of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer David Ashbaugh, said to be one of the world's foremost experts in the field.
The Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) is accused of covering up errors by its staff and its attitude was preventing openness and accountability as recommended last year by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.
Allan Bayle, one of the petitioners and a former Scotland Yard fingerprint expert, said the SCRO had to "put its house in order".
"They are still denying and saying it is only opinion," he said.
"It is not opinion. It's a fact in black and white. Either it is or it isn't or it's inconclusive, nothing else."
The petition was backed by Ian McKie, the father of former policewoman Shirley McKie whose case led to reforms in Scotland's fingerprint system.
Mr McKie said: "Quite bluntly if experts in DNA or any of the other forensic sciences did what the fingerprint experts did then these sciences would have absolutely no value at all."
Scottish National Party MSP for South of Scotland Mike Russell said the SCRO and Scottish justice were "becoming a laughing stock throughout the world".
In May, 160 experts from all over the world had signed an open letter to Mr Wallace to show the scale of international alarm over the issue.
He added: "Scotland has to get its house in order and the only way to do that now if the Scottish Executive will not do so, is to have an independent inquiry.
"We are suggesting the person who can undertake that is one of the world experts in fingerprinting and I hope the justice committee, if this is passed on, will treat that very seriously."
John McAllion, convener of the parliament's petitions committee, said it would be considered on 8 October and confirmed it was competent even though it had been submitted by non-Scots.
Daily Record – 20.9.02
DIM Jim Wallace faced fresh embarrassment yesterday when crimefighters from around the world demanded an inquiry into Scotland's fingerprinting system.
Four international experts petitioned the Scottish Parliament to demand an independent probe.
It follows Justice Minister Wallace's claim that fingerprinting was "an art form, not an exact science".
The experts - one from England, two from America and one from Holland - want Parliament to "call in the Mounties" to sort out the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO).
They accused the SCRO of claiming fingerprint evidence was a matter of opinion in a bid to "cover up errors" and they want an inquiry to be led by David Ashbaugh, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police - one of the world's top fingerprint experts.
Their petition has been backed by Ian McKie, the father of former WPC Shirley McKie, whose case led to reforms of Scotland's fingerprint system.
The Ayrshire officer was accused of perjury after she denied being at a crime scene where her fingerprints were found. Following a lengthy court battle, she won her case.
Former policeman Mr McKie warned yesterday: "We will be second or third rate in terms of forensic sciences until we sort this out."
He added: "In Scotland, it is an art form - after all they created my daughter's fingerprints - but elsewhere in the world it is a science."
The petition was given to committee convener John McAllion yesterday by former Scotland Yard fingerprint expert Allen Bayle, who said the SCRO had to "put its house in order".
Nationalist MSP Mike Russell warned: "The SCRO is becoming a laughing stock.
"How can the Scottish public, lawyers and the courts have any faith in the evidence they produce?
"And how can they have confidence in the Justice Minister if he repeats their fictions?"