Ruling due in dispute over Scottish baronetcy


An accountant and a businessman embroiled in a dispute over a Scottish baronetcy are waiting for senior judges to give their views.

Seven judges have analysed evidence at hearings of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London - in one of the most unusual disputes seen in a British court - and are scheduled to deliver a ruling.

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, both lay claim to the baronetcy of Pringle of Stichill.

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

Judges have 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.

Now his son Simon Pringle and Murray Pringle - Simon Pringle's second cousin - disagree over who should claim the title.

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

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

They have 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 claims that, as Ronald's son, he is the rightful successor.

Lawyers for Simon Pringle disputed Murray Pringle's claim.

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

He 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 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.