Court hearing for retired soldier is ‘ridiculous’ says MP

Jeffrey Donaldson MP

Jeffrey Donaldson MP

Jeffrey Donaldson has described as “ridiculous” the latest hearing regarding whether Dennis Hutchings is able to go on holiday whilst awaiting trial.

The DUP MP for Lagan Valley, who is also formerly a member of the UDR, said there is “absolutely” a contrast between the treatment of ex-solider Hutchings and the treatment of suspected paramilitary Damien McLaughlin, who has been charged with – and denies – helping to murder David Black.

McLaughlin had, on at least three occasions in total, had his bail varied to allow him to take holidays at the Manor House Hotel in Co Fermanagh, and the Galgorm spa outside Ballymena.

He has since vanished, and the authorities do not know where he is.

Regarding the case of Hutchings (READ ABOUT THE LATEST HEARING HERE), 75, Mr Donaldson said: “I think it’s ridiculous that a man of this age who has served his country, who is an upstanding citizen, who presents absolutely no threat to his bail conditions, should be subjected to these kind of judicial proceedings simply over the question of whether he is permitted to go on holiday.”

Hutchings was not in court for health reasons on Tuesday.

Mr Donaldson said he believed a holiday “would be therapeutic for him, hopefully beneficial for his health, and I see no good reason why the courts are putting him through this lengthy process”.

The man whom Hutchings is accused of attempting to murder is described by the book Lost Lives as having been a Catholic civilian from the Benburb area of south-east Co Tyrone.

He was aged 27.

He was shot close to his home on June 15, 1974.