Veterans’ representative ‘heard no new evidence” at trial of Dennis Hutchings
A military veterans’ spokesman has called on prosecutors to fully explain their reasons for putting Dennis Hutchings on trial in Belfast.
Paul Young of the Northern Ireland Veterans Movement (NIVM) sat through every hour of the former Life Guard’s court hearings and said he remains convinced that Mr Hutchings should not have been in the dock.
The trial opened on October 4 but was halted last Friday when the 80-year-old defendant – accused of attempting to murder John Pat Cunningham in Benburb in 1974 – became unwell. Mr Hutchings died on Monday.
News of his death sparked criticism of the PPS, including from unionist elected representatives, for pursuing the prosecution.
A solicitor acting for the Cunningham family said 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.”
The statement added: “When the time is judged appropriate the family will respond in more detail to the issues surrounding the prosecution of Dennis Hutchings.”
Mr Young, a military veteran who later served as a police detective sergeant said: “I was there from day one, and every single day, and I can say quite categorically, that I never heard any new evidence.
“All they were doing, the prosecution, was reading hearsay evidence into the record and that is it – no new evidence whatsoever.”
He said: “There certainly wasn’t anything credible. Anything they may have been attempting to put in wasn’t allowed. It was the hearsay evidence of people who are now dead and couldn’t be cross-examined.
“Dennis should never have been on trial in Belfast, let alone die in Belfast.
“I was also at the preliminary enquiry in Armagh back in 2017 and I didn’t hear anything new then either.”
The PPS issued a statement on Tuesday stating that: “Whilst a review of a previous no prosecution decision does not require the existence of new evidence, the police investigation in this case resulted in a file being submitted to the PPS which included certain evidence not previously available”.