Dennis Hutchings: bid to halt trial of ex-soldier fails

Former Soldier  Dennis Hutchings appearing at Armagh Court. A bid to halt his trial in relation to the death of John-Pat Cunningham has failed. He was shot dead by members of an Army patrol in Benburb in 1974.' Photo: Clm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Former Soldier Dennis Hutchings appearing at Armagh Court. A bid to halt his trial in relation to the death of John-Pat Cunningham has failed. He was shot dead by members of an Army patrol in Benburb in 1974.' Photo: Clm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A bid to halt the prosecution of a former British solider charged in connection with the fatal shooting of an unarmed man with learning difficulties in Northern Ireland has been rejected.

Dismissing a defence application to stay the prosecution of Army veteran Dennis Hutchings, a judge told Belfast Crown Court he was satisfied the defendant, from Cawsand Torpoint in Cornwall, could receive a fair trial.

Hutchings, 77, is charged in relation to the fatal shooting of John Pat Cunningham in disputed circumstances in County Armagh in 1974.

The 27-year-old was shot in the back as he ran away from an Army patrol. His family contend he ran because he feared men in uniform.

Hutchings is charged with attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent.

His lawyers had argued the case should be halted due to the unavailability of evidence; a delay in mounting the prosecution; and an alleged breach of promise related to an original decision by prosecutors in 1974 not to pursue charges.

The news comes a day after the Prime Minister old the House of Commons that investigations into Northern Ireland’s troubled past are “patently unfair” in the way they only probe the activities of the security forces.

Speaking in the Commons, Theresa May said: “The situation we have at the moment is that the only people being investigated for those issues that happened in the past are those in our armed forces, or those who served in law enforcement in Northern Ireland. That is patently unfair.”