MoD refuses to fund Dennis Hutchings legal challenge against Government

The Ministry of Defence has refused a request to fund a legal challenge against the Government over the prosecution of veterans in Northern Ireland.

Dennis Hutchings, 78, is to launch a judicial review against the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland over election promises to give veterans who served in the Troubles “the protection they deserve” and clarify what protections veterans will be given from what he terms “unjust prosecutions”.

He requested funding from the MoD for the challenge, but was refused on the grounds the Government could not fund a legal action against itself.

Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer recently confirmed legislation to protect veterans will be introduced at Westminster by March 18.

This date comes after the criminal trial which Mr Hutchings is set to face in Belfast starting on March 9.

The former member of the Life Guards regiment, from Cawsand in Cornwall, has pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of a man with learning difficulties during the conflict.

John Pat Cunningham
John Pat Cunningham

John Pat Cunningham, 27, died after being shot in the back as he ran away from an Army patrol near Benburb, Co Tyrone, in 1974.

Mr Hutchings said: “Following the refusal from the MoD to back my challenge against the NIO (Northern Ireland Office), I feel totally let down yet again by the Government.

“Any legislation, if it comes at all, will be too late for me but I will continue the fight to stop this political and vengeful vendetta against service veterans who were only serving their country having been sent by politicians to a job, which was to protect the public.

“The time is now for the politicians to hang their heads in shame for how they are treating the veterans of this country.”

Matthew Jury of McCue & Partners said Mr Hutchings “intends to continue his campaign to ensure that other veterans are spared his ordeal”.

In a statement, the MoD said: “We stand by all our veterans and are continuing to provide Mr Hutchings with both legal representation and pastoral support for his criminal defence.

“Funding this additional judicial review application would see the Government using taxpayers’ money to pay for legal action against itself.”

The British Government has repeatedly said there will be no Army prosecutions without new evidence.