More evidence, if evidence were needed, that one person’s fingerprint security system is another’s security disaster.

The Scotsman newspaper reported last week that a fingerprint security system used at Her Majesty’s Glenochil high-security prison near Stirling, Scotland was going to be abandoned after major problems. The major problem was that it didn’t work.

Reportedly, this has meant writing off £3 million ($5.4 million) of public funds, and all this after identical problems with a fingerprint system at another of the country’s prisons.

How bad do things have to get for prison governors to write off an entire security system they’ve just installed? The system allowed the unlocking of doors in conjunction with a PIN code, which sounds secure enough. Unfortunately, it turned out that prisoners figured out how to get round the system, so much so that they were able to move around the building at will.

How they did this has not been revealed but it stands to reason that many of the institution’s 500 inmates are likely to be practiced in the art of breaking physical security barriers. That’s one of the reasons they ended up in prison.

"The equipment for the fingerprint system is still in place, but it is no longer in use. It will probably stay there for years but never get used,” a prison source is quoted at saying.

The supplier hasn’t been named, but let’s give the unfortunate company the benefit of some doubt. Unless we’ve been misinformed, biometric systems are designed ot help layer security, and as a means of identification. They are not yet anywhere near ready to be installed as a replacement for conventional security, as they appear to have been in this instance.

The warders have, thankfully, gone back to keys. It’s not fool-proof either, but it is a lot cheaper.