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Lord Advocate threatens gagging order on McKie

10 March 2006

The Lord Advocate yesterday threatened to impose a rare public interest immunity certificate on lawyers representing Shirley McKie to limit what they could mention in court action, according to a report in The Herald today.

At the Court of Session yesterday, Ms McKie's lawyers were seeking extra costs because they say the Scottish Executive obstructed her case for compensation.

The case opened yesterday with a reference to the possible gagging order. Andrew Smith, QC, counsel for McKie, made clear that Paul Cullen, QC, appearing for the Lord Advocate, had agreed to his written line of argument, provided he did not stray from it.

Should Mr Smith stray from this written line of argument, Mr Cullen could invoke the public immunity certificate in relation to the use of a report by James MacKay, formerly of Tayside Police, who had been asked to carry out investigations into the affair.

Mr Cullen said that, after discussions with Ms McKie's counsel over the report, there would be no need to address the issue of a public interest immunity certificate. The report in question was a confidential police report, relating to the investigation into allegations of criminal conduct by a number of individuals.

The Lord Advocate was of the opinion that the production of this document would not be in the public interest.

Mr Smith said yesterday that the decision to pay £750,000 compensation was an indication that the wrongful identification of a fingerprint of Ms McKie's at the Kilmarnock murder scene of Marion Ross was evidence that it was not seen as an honest mistake against the former Strathclyde police woman.

Lord Hodge reserved judgment but, if he awards extra expenses, thought to be about £100,000, that will be seen as criticism of the way ministers have handled the case.