Great Britain

Army veteran betrayal: Soldier in attempted murder trial for actions while serving Britain

Mr Hutchings, 78, of Cornwall, who denies the charge, has been told his trial will begin at Belfast Crown Court on March 9 next year. The trial should last two weeks but is likely to stretch to six weeks because of Mr Hutchings very poor health, which requires him to have kidney dialysis three times a week. He told the Daily Express last night that he had “grave doubts” that he will receive a fair trial in Northern Ireland.

Mr Hutchings said: “I am glad that this is coming to a conclusion one way or another nearly six years after this kicked off in 2013.

“But I have grave doubts that I will get a fair trial in Northern Ireland. I have no faith in the judicial system over there.”

He is charged with attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent over the killing of John Patrick Cunningham, 27, in Co Tyrone in 1974.

Unarmed Mr Cunningham, who was said to have had learning difficulties and feared men in uniform, was shot in the back as he fled from an Army patrol in what Mr Hutchings accepts was “a tragedy”.

Mr Hutchings is one of seven British soldiers currently facing trial over “legacy” killings during The Troubles.

He has been investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing twice before.

He was not in court for the brief pre-trial hearing yesterday during which the judge was told that an up-to-date medical report on the former member of the Life Guards regiment made for “grim reading”.

Senior judge Mr Justice Colton also ruled that Mr Hutchings will be formally arraigned via videolink later this month on the two charges he faces ahead of next year’s trial.

Dennis Hutchings

Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings (Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

Both the prosecution and the defence agreed that the arraignment hearing can take place from a courtroom in Plymouth, England due to Mr Hutchings poor health.

Defence barrister Ian Turkington told Mr Justice Colton that a medical report had been lodged with the court on August 15 this year and a copy was also provided to the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland.

A previous court hearing was told that Mr Hutchings was suffering from “acute renal failure’’ and would spend the rest of his life on dialysis.

Mr Turkington said that there would need to be consultation between Mr Hutching’s primary care health officials in England with their counterparts in Northern Ireland.

In June this year, Mr Hutchings was denied a trial by jury.

The Supreme Court in London which gave an unanimous ruling that the trial should be held without a jury.

The judge-only “Diplock system” was brought in to handle terrorism cases amid fears a jury could be intimidated.

The Daily Express has long campaigned for an end to the persecution of British soldiers, contrasting it with the treatment of IRA terrorists.

Under Tony Blair’s 1998 Good Friday Agreement, more than 500 convicted terrorists were released early, while “Letters of Comfort” were issued to suspected terrorists telling them they would not be pursued.

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