Tyrone shooting trial of former British soldier (80) adjourned

Dennis Hutchings, 80, is accused of the attempted murder of a man with learning difficulties in Co Tyrone in 1974
Tyrone shooting trial of former British soldier (80) adjourned

By David Young, PA

The trial of a British Army veteran over a Troubles shooting has been adjourned after the defendant was taken to hospital due to ill health.

A defence barrister informed Belfast Crown Court of the development in the case involving Dennis Hutchings as proceedings in the non-jury trial were due to commence on Friday morning.

James Lewis QC told judge Mr Justice O’Hara that Mr Hutchings, 80, had been unable to attend court.

“I regret to say he’s been taken unwell and is presently in hospital,” he said.

Dennis Hutchings court case
Dennis Hutchings is greeted by supporters at an earlier hearing of his trial at Belfast Crown Court (Mark Marlow/PA)

“And in those circumstances, my lord, I don’t think it’s possible for us to proceed today.”

The trial has been ongoing for two weeks and the judge had been due to hear further evidence from a police witness on Friday.

Mr Hutchings is suffering from kidney disease and the court has been sitting only three days a week to enable him to undergo dialysis treatment between hearings.

He is charged with the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in Co Tyrone in 1974.

The former member of the Life Guards regiment from Cawsand in Cornwall also denies a count of attempted grievous bodily harm with intent.

Dennis Hutchings court case
John Pat Cunningham was shot as he ran across a field in Benburb, Co Tyrone (Pat Finucane Centre/PA).

Mr Cunningham, 27, was shot dead as he ran away from an Army patrol across a field near Benburb. People who knew him said he had the mental age of a child and was known to have a deep fear of soldiers.

Prosecution barrister Charles McCreanor QC said an adjournment was unavoidable.

“It would seem the court has absolutely no option whatsoever but to grant the adjournment,” he said.

Justice O’Hara adjourned proceedings until Monday morning.

“This is unfortunate, but I hope very much that for Mr Hutchings’ sake and for everybody’s sake that he is treated and is fit to attend the trial again on Monday,” said the judge.

“So, I will adjourn until Monday morning and I can be updated on the position then.”

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