Ex-soldier charged over 1974 shooting gets more time for cruise bid

John Pat Cunningham

John Pat Cunningham

A retired British soldier, charged in connection with a 1974 shooting in Northern Ireland, has been unable to provide medical evidence to a court that would allow him to go on a cruise while on bail.

Dennis Hutchings, 75, failed to provide a court in Armagh, Northern Ireland, with a medical report to support his application to have bail conditions varied so he can go on holiday with his wife in February ahead of a preliminary hearing into the case against him.

The court is concerned if he goes on the holiday Hutchings, who is in ill health, will not be well enough to attend his hearing in March.

However, the district judge has agreed to allow Hutchings' legal team two more weeks to provide a medical report before he makes a final decision.

The court was previously told Hutchings's health was deteriorating and he wanted a chance to go on a cruise with his wife.

He is accused of the attempted murder of a man with learning difficulties over 40 years ago.

John Pat Cunningham, 27, was shot dead by an Army patrol in June 1974.

Hutchings, from New Road, Cawsand, Torpoint in Cornwall, is also facing a charge of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to Mr Cunningham. He is due to attend a preliminary investigation in Northern Ireland in March.

A defence lawyer recently asked Armagh Magistrates' Court to amend Hutchings' bail conditions to permit him to go on the holiday in a few weeks time.

The lawyer said the defendant's health was deteriorating and "the window to take that much desired cruise with his wife is closing".

District Judge Harry McKibbon said during the previous hearing if he could be sure the cruise would not affect the defendant's health to attend committal then he would be "very sympathetic" to amending bail.

At that time he adjourned the case for one week for a medical report to be produced.

However, on Tuesday Hutchings's lawyer told the court he had not yet been able to obtain the medical evidence required.

He said: "Regrettably we have been unable to produce the medical evidence that the court would like to consider. We were unable to get all our ducks in a row. We would like to bring it before your worship as soon as we get that evidence.

"Our intention as soon as we get the medical evidence is to provide it to the Crown and we would hope there's no objection."

The judge agreed to allow a further two weeks for medical evidence.

At an earlier hearing a solicitor for Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said there were concerns Hutchings posed a flight risk and that if he went on the cruise it could delay committal proceedings which are due to take place on March 20.

Hutchings was not in court on Tuesday for the hearing. He was excused from attending due to his ill health.