Civil action launched in Denis Hutchings case

John Pat Cunningham
John Pat Cunningham

A civil action against the state is to be launched alongside a criminal prosecution for the killing of a civilian by soldiers.

John Pat Cunningham was killed in a field near his Benburb home in June 1974. He was 27 but had a mental age of between six and ten.

In 2013 the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) said Mr Cunningham’s death was “an absolute tragedy that should not have happened”.

It said that there was evidence that he had a fear of soldiers and their uniforms, adding that he was “unarmed and shot as he was running away from soldiers”.

Former English soldier Dennis Hutching, 75 has been charged with murder in connection with the killing, prompting much debate.

Yesterday KRW Law, acting on behalf of the Cunningham family, issued a statement noting that then Minister of State for Northern Ireland Andrew Robathan wrote an apology on behalf of the British government to the family in 2013, quoting the HET conclusions.

Solicitor Rosie Kinnear for KRW said the family fully support the criminal prosecution of Mr Hutching.

“Another outcome is by way of a civil action against the state agencies responsible for the violation and the subsequent investigation,” she said.

“In this instance KRW LAW LLP have issued a Letter of Claim and we plan to issue a writ for negligence, misfeasance in public office, unlawful killing, trespass to the person and a breach of Mr Cunningham’s right to life under Article 2 of the ECHR.”

The action will be taken against the MOD, the Chief Constable and the Secretary of State.

The apology of the British government indicates the need to pursue the civil action in addition to criminal proceedings, she added.