Dennis Hutchings: Former soldier wants to attend his trial in person

Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings will now attend his trial in Northern Ireland next year accused of the attempted murder of a vulnerable man over 40 years ago, a court heard on Friday.

Friday, 8th November 2019, 2:23 pm
Dennis Hutchings

A previous hearing in September heard the 78-year-old would follow the trial proceedings via video-link from a court in England.

His legal team also said he may come to Belfast to give his evidence in person if his health permitted as he was receiving dialysis treatment for “acute renal failure’’.

But defence barrister Ian Turkington told Mr Justice Colton on Friday that Mr Hutchings, from Cawsand, Cornwall, had now instructed that he wanted to “partake in the trial in person’’ next March.

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Mr Hutchings, a former member of the Life Guards, will stand trial at Belfast Crown Court in the non-jury Diplock style hearing accused of the attempted murder of John Patrick Cunningham on June 15, 1974.

Mr Cunningham was shot in the back by the Army with an SLR rifle in a field as he ran away on the outskirts of Benburb in Co Tyrone.

The former soldier is further accused of “unlawfully and maliciously attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to John Patrick Cunningham with intent to do him grievous bodily harm’’.

The pensioner, who was not present in court, denies both charges.

Mr Turkington informed the court on Friday that the defendant’s instructing solicitor has been in contact “with a representative of the NHS in Northern Ireland about how the dialysis treatment could be provided’’ to the defendant.

He said the solicitor was told that medical professionals in Northern Ireland would be able to provide the necessary dialysis treatment.

“Mr Hutchings is presently undergoing dialysis treatment twice a week but he really should be receiving it three times per week,’’ added Mr Turkington.

Mr Justice Colton said that given that the trial was without a jury, he would “accede to any treatment required’’ by the defendant during the trial.

The case will be reviewed next month ahead of the start of the trial.

Mr Hutchings had previously asked for his trial to be heard before a jury rather than a Diplock-style court hearing where the judge decides the case in order to avoid the danger of jury intimidation in terrorist-related cases.

In June this year, the Supreme Court in London gave an unanimous ruling that the trial should be held without a jury.