Pringle v. R (Jamaica)  UKPC 9 (27 January 2003)
Privy Council Appeal No. 17 of 2002
Michael Pringle Appellant
The Queen Respondent
THE COURT OF APPEAL OF JAMAICA
JUDGMENT OF THE LORDS OF THE JUDICIAL
COMMITTEE OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL,
Delivered the 27th January 2003
Present at the hearing:-
Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead
Lord Hope of Craighead
Lord Rodger of Earlsferry
[Delivered by Lord Hope of Craighead]
The issues in the appeal
The DNA evidence
"Members of the jury, if you accept the scientific evidence called by the Crown, this indicates that there are probably only about four or five males in [the given area] from whom that semen stain could have come. The defendant is one of them. If that is the position, the decision you have to reach, on all the evidence, is whether you are sure that it was the defendant who left that stain or whether it is possible that it was one of that other small group of men who share the same DNA characteristics."
"His Lordship: Can you say where is came from?
Witness: The spermatozoa could have come from Michael Pringle.
His Lordship: When you said could have …?
Witness: In science we have 99.999 per cent certainty. So, what I would say, it is with a high degree of certainty.
His Lordship: 99.999 per cent that it came from Michael Pringle?
Towards the end of her cross-examination the following exchange took place between her and the judge:Witness: Yes, my Lord."
"Witness: You asked me, I can't recall the question – what came to my mind – 'Why not the degree of certainty with which I state something?'
His Lordship: With which you stated that it was his semen in Kevan Davidson's vagina?
His Lordship: And you told me it was 99.999 per cent certainty?
Witness: No. I said to you I would have to say it is with a high degree of certainty.
His Lordship: Not 99.999 …
Witness: I said 99.999. In science we say 99.99999. It goes on. But we did not address the probability in this.
His Lordship: Should I qualify this 99.999 now?
Witness: Not in the context of which we spoke. It will still stand."
After referring to the readings which she had obtained on the HLADQa test from the female fraction he said:"would indicate that the spermatozoa in the vaginal cavity of the deceased woman came from the accused man, Pringle."
"So, it is based upon these results that she comes to the conclusion that the spermatozoa there came from Pringle, that it, that Pringle had sexual intercourse with the deceased."
"Q: You said, doctor, the probability in relation to the combined tests of two persons having the same reading as Michael Pringle were, in Jamaica, four in ten thousand?
His Lordship: The combined?
Mr Hibbert: The combined probability.
Witness: We are talking about persons, not male.
Mr Hibbert: Persons.
Witness: Four in ten thousand refer not to male.
Q: But just to persons? So, if you were just using the same ratio, one man to one woman, you would have how many males to this ten thousand?
A: It would be two in ten thousand."
The cell confession
"While we in no way wish to detract from the obligation upon a judge to advise a jury to proceed with caution where there is material to suggest that a witness's evidence may be tainted by an improper motive, and the strength of the evidence must vary according to the facts of the case, we cannot accept that there is any obligation to give the accomplice warning with all that entails, when it is common ground that there is no basis for suggesting that the witness is a participant or in any way involved in the crime the subject matter of the trial."
"His Lordship: Wait a minute. Coming out of custody – He has come out of custody by virtue of a court order, it has nothing to do with the police, so let us get that clear.
Mr Lyn-Cook: I am not saying anything, my Lord. It may be coincidence, sir.
The effect of this intervention, which their Lordships regard as unfortunate, appears to have been to stop any further questioning about the circumstances which led to Simmonds receiving a suspended sentence and being released from custody. Whether this created any unfairness because it stopped defence counsel from pursuing a material line of inquiry is not something about which their Lordships would wish to speculate. They do not need to do so, as there are other indications that the jury ought to have been told by the judge that they should take special care when they were considering Simmonds's evidence.His Lordship: Let us get that clear. He came out of custody because of a court order."
Other grounds: lack of direction about lies and interruptions by the trial judge