A HAMPSHIRE builder jailed for burglary successfully challenged the accuracy of ear-print identification evidence called at his trial.

But, although senior judges quashed a burglary conviction in the case of Mark Kempster, from Netley, they refused to rule that their decision had a "knock-on" effect on the safety of his three other convictions.

Lord Justice Latham, sitting with Mrs Justice Swift and Mr Justice Foskett in London, also said they would "not interfere" with the ten-year sentence being served by Kempster, of Grange Road, who is expected to be released in December.

His case was referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), an independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.

Kempster, now 42, was jailed for a total of ten years at Southampton Crown Court in March 2001 on three counts of burglary and one of attempted burglary and lost a previous conviction challenge in 2003.

During yesterday's hearing Kempster's barrister Michael Mansfield QC told the court that the essence of the appeal related to a "central point" of the evidence concerning one of the four counts faced by Kempster.

That evidence, he said, was "an ear-mark left on the fixed window at the rear of premises" he was accused of burgling.

Mr Mansfield added: "At the trial the ear-mark left on the window essentially was unchallenged, in the sense that no expert was called by the defendant to suggest any disparity between the ear-mark at the scene and the ear-print that had been taken from Kempster."

But he added: "However, since the trial there have been various developments in relation to this science."

Impressions of Kempster's ears were taken by police when he was arrested.

A specialist ear-print officer told a jury at the crown court that no two ears were the same and she did not believe the ear could belong to anyone other than the defendant.

The appeal court was asked to decide if fresh expert ear-print evidence was now sufficient to quash the burglary count to which it related, and if they ruled that it was, whether their decision had a "knock-on" or domino effect on the three other offences.

Announcing the decision, Lord Justice Latham said the court did not think it appropriate to give its reasons today, but would give a written judgment at a later date because evidence relating to ears was an area "which is developing and may well be used in the future".

Kempster's solicitor, Steven Bird, said outside court after the ruling: "It is disappointing that we have had the conviction overturned in relation to the ear-print evidence, but he remains convicted on the other counts."

He added: "We have demonstrated that ear-print evidence has to be dealt with very carefully."

Mr Bird said it was a science still in its infancy and was "more useful" as an investigative, rather than an evidential tool.