An Irishman who served 17 years in a UK jail for attempted rape was released on Friday after the court of appeal ruled he had been wrongfully convicted.

Victor Nealon, who moved to Britain more than 20 years ago, has always maintained that he was at home watching TV the night the 22-year-old was attacked as she walked home from a nightclub in Redditch, Worcestershire, in 1996, reports the Irish Times.

The Dubliner even offered a DNA sample after he was arrested and no match was found, but it now emerges that police never told Hereford crown court during his trial in 1997 that the DNA of another unknown man had been found on the woman's clothes.

Nealon had been given a discretionary life term and was refused parole because he always denied he attacked the woman.

“In the context of these proceedings, this DNA evidence is dynamite and, had it been used at trial, it would have had an explosive effect,” Nealon’s lawyer, Peter Willcock QC, told the court.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred Nealon’s case to the court of appeal earlier this year. The three-judge court ordered the man's immediate release on Friday after a sitting that lasted only an hour.

A friend of the accused, Leo O'Toole, said his friend had suffered "terribly" in prison and was the victim of abuse because of the alleged crime and his Irish nationality.

O’Toole, a member of the West Midlands Against Injustice group, said Nealon had been charged even though six people had failed to identify him in a line-up. The Irish Times reports that the 2010 referral by the CCRC came even though it had rejected his appeals twice before and had refused requests to order DNA testing on evidence samples.