The message came via a joint statement from the Pat Finucane Centre and legal firm KRW Law on Tuesday, objecting to claims that the prosecution of Dennis Hutchings for the attempted murder of Mr Cunningham was part of an anti-state “witch hunt”.
Mr Hutchings died while in the middle of his trial on Monday night; he had maintained his innocence in the face of the charges against him.
The statement read as follows: “Following the death of former soldier Dennis Hutchings, the family of John Pat Cunningham wish to acknowledge that this is a difficult time for his family and they should be given time to grieve.
“No family member will be giving interviews at this time.
“When the time is judged appropriate, the family will respond in more detail to the issues surrounding the prosecution of Dennis Hutchings.
“In the meantime, it is important to correct the false and factually inaccurate claims that have been made in the media by some political leaders.
“It should be noted that none of those who have commented have actually attended the trial and are clearly unaware of the actual facts of the case.
“We respectfully remind the public of the facts that were pronounced at the trial, which were uncontested.”
The statement then went on to lay out what the lawyers for the family claimed are the essential facts of the case.
John Pat Cunningham was shot three times – “through the back, and shoulder, and [he also] endured an injury to his right hand”.
He was also known to be “anxious and fearful around men in uniforms, and was known to have run from army, police, and priests”.
The statement also said: “It is factually inaccurate to claim that Dennis Hutchings had been ‘cleared’ in any previous investigation since no proper investigation took place until recently.
“It is factually inaccurate to allege that this prosecution was politically motivated and part of a fictitious ‘witch-hunt’ against British soldiers.
“This claim by senior politicians impugns the professional integrity, independence and impartiality of those involved in the recent investigation and prosecution.
“It is factually inaccurate to claim that the shooting of John Pat Cunningham was as the result of a ‘split second’ decision. Anyone who actually followed the evidence would have been aware of this.
“Many people will have noted that much of the negative reaction to this case within unionism and in sections of the British press has been determined by the fact that John Pat Cunningham, who posed no threat whatsoever, was an Irish Catholic.
“It is the status of the victim that has framed the reaction, not the detail of the case. Shame on them.”