Ex-soldier to undergo dialysis during trial over Troubles shooting

A seriously ill former British soldier will undergo dialysis several times a week as he stands trial in Belfast in relation to a fatal Troubles shooting, a court has heard.

A barrister for Dennis Hutchings, who has renal failure, told Belfast Crown Court his client will appear in person during March’s non-jury trial, despite the 78-year-old previously pledging not to attend proceedings in protest.

Hutchings, a former member of the Life Guards regiment, has pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of a man with learning difficulties during the conflict.

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.

John Pat Cunningham
John Pat Cunningham (Pat Finucane Centre/PA)

Hutchings, from Cawsand in Cornwall, denies attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent.

In September, he appeared before a judge in Belfast by video-link from Plymouth for his arraignment hearing.

Afterwards, he told hundreds of supporters outside Plymouth Crown Court that he would not attend the trial as he did not recognise the legitimacy of the system.

Hutchings previously failed in a Supreme Court challenge against the decision to hear his case without a jury.

Dennis Hutchings at the Supreme Court
Dennis Hutchings at the Supreme Court (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

At Belfast Crown Court on Friday, his barrister Ian Turkington said Hutchings was willing to attend the trial.

“It is his intention to participate in the trial here,” he told judge Mr Justice Adrian Colton.

Mr Turkington said arrangements were being made with Belfast City Hospital to enable his client to undergo dialysis in Northern Ireland.

He said Hutchings, who was excused from attending Friday’s preliminary hearing, was having the treatment twice a week but may require it three times a week by March.

Judge Colton replied: “I note Mr Hutchings will attend trial. I will obviously accommodate any treatment that is required.”

Prosecution barrister Charles MacCreanor QC said it was important that Hutchings had indicated he would attend the proceedings.

He said his previous “public pronouncements” about his attendance had caused “concern”.

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