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Accountant wins legal case against cousin over Scottish baronetcy

Published 20/06/2016

Murray Pringle outside the Supreme Court in London, where he and Simon Pringle are involved in a legal dispute claiming rights to the baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill
Murray Pringle outside the Supreme Court in London, where he and Simon Pringle are involved in a legal dispute claiming rights to the baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill

An accountant has won a legal fight over a Scottish baronetcy in one of the most unusual disputes seen in a UK court.

Accountant Murray Pringle, who is in his 70s and comes from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and businessman Simon Pringle, who is in his 50s and lives near Hastings, East Sussex, had both laid claim to the baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill.

Seven judges have analysed evidence at hearings of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London - and on Monday ruled in favour of Murray Pringle.

The Queen had asked judges for a ruling under a piece of legislation dating back more than 150 years.

Judges had heard that Charles II granted the baronetcy of Stichill - a village near Kelso, Roxburghshire - to Robert Pringle of Stichill and the ''male heirs from his body'' on January 5 1683.

The 10th baronet, Sir Steuart Pringle - a retired Royal Marines commander who survived an IRA bomb attack - died in 2013 aged 84.

His son, Simon Pringle, and Murray Pringle - Simon Pringle's second cousin - disagreed over who should claim the title.

Murray Pringle said Simon Pringle should not become the 11th baronet because there had been a ''break in the line of paternity''.

His lawyers said tests had shown that Sir Steuart's DNA ''did not match that of the Pringle lineage''.

They had suggested that the problem arose following the death of the 8th baronet, Sir Norman Pringle, in 1919.

Judges were told that Sir Norman and his wife Florence had three sons, Norman, Ronald - Murray's father - and James.

In 1920 Florence Pringle made a formal statutory declaration saying Norman was the eldest son of the 8th baronet and was entitled to succeed to the baronetcy.

But Murray Pringle argues the 8th baronet was not Norman's father and claimed that, as Ronald's son, he was the rightful successor.

Lawyers for Simon Pringle disputed Murray Pringle's claim.

Simon Pringle had said his father and mother - Lady Jacqueline Pringle, who died in 2012 - had hoped the dispute would be solved in their lifetimes.

He had said he was glad that judges had been asked for a ruling.

The jurisdiction of the Privy Council dates back hundreds of years. Its judicial committee heard appeals from countries in the British Empire.

The committee - now normally made up of a panel of Supreme Court justices - still acts as a final court of appeal for Commonwealth countries which have no supreme court.

The committee can also analyse other kinds of dispute, and the Queen can refer ''any matter'' to the committee for ''consideration and report'' under section 4 of the 1833 Judicial Committee Act.

Judges had analysed evidence in the baronetcy case at a hearing of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London in November.

All the judges involved in the case are Supreme Court justices and hearings were staged in the Supreme Court building.

Judges said, in a ruling, that DNA evidence demonstrated to "a high degree of probability" that Norman was not the son of the 8th baronet - and they said there was no legal ground for excluding DNA evidence.

On that basis they had concluded that Simon Pringle was not the "heir male" of the 1st baronet.

They said Murray Pringle was the grandson of the 8th baronet and the "heir male" of the 1st baronet and was therefore entitled to succeed.

Judges suggested that their ruling would have implications.

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