Pringle seeks State award as case opens in court

MR Peter Pringle, who spent 15 years in prison before he succeeded in having his conviction for the murder of a garda quashed…

MR Peter Pringle, who spent 15 years in prison before he succeeded in having his conviction for the murder of a garda quashed, yesterday began a Supreme Court appeal to recover compensation from the State.

Mr Pringle was jailed in 1980 by the Special Criminal Court for the murder of Garda Henry Byrne.

The Court of Criminal Appeal quashed Mr Pringle's conviction and the State indicated it would not go ahead with a re-trial.

Later, the Court of Criminal Appeal decided it would not grant Mr Pringle a certificate that there had been a miscarriage of justice.

This certificate would have permitted him to claim compensation from the State.

The Court of Criminal Appeal asked the Supreme Court to decide if it was correct in refusing Mr Pringle a certificate in the light of its earlier decision to quash the murder conviction.

Central to Mr Pringle's case was the fact that when he was detained he refused a Garda request to provide a sample of his blood for forensic examination.

Later, when being interrogated on July 20th, 1980, he suffered a nosebleed and a tissue was used to clean the blood from his nose.

He was not told the tissue was retained for forensic examination.

Mr Pringle, while in prison, brought a civil action against the State which was ordered to discover documents.

He was provided with a photo-stat copy of entries made by a garda during Mr Pringle's detention which mentioned the nose-bleed and a tissue being retained.

In 1994 Mr Pringle claimed he had newly discovered facts showing there was a miscarriage of justice.

The court of Criminal Appeal decided there had been a newly discovered fact which rendered the conviction unsafe and unsatisfactory.

Mr Barry White SC, for Mr Pringle, told the Supreme Court yesterday that under Section 9 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1993 it was clear that a newly discovered fact coming to the notice of a person after his conviction might form the basis of a finding of a miscarriage of justice and the granting of a certificate.

It was inherent in the process of the quashing of a conviction that there was a reassertion of Mr Pringle's presumption of innocence in the past, said Mr White.

There had been a failure in the process of Mr Pringle's trial at the Special Criminal Court - not through judicial error but through a fundamental violation of Mr Pringle's rights by hiding material going to the root of the credibility of the most essential prosecution witness in the case made against him.

The appeal continues today.