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Boris Johnson's comments could scupper Denis Hutchings murder bid trial, claim lawyers

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Question time in the House of Commons. (Photo by HO/PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Question time in the House of Commons. (Photo by HO/PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

PRU/AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Question time in the House of Commons. (Photo by HO/PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

A parliamentary exchange involving Boris Johnson may have compromised the trial of a former British soldier facing trial for attempted murder, it was claimed today.

Lawyers for the alleged victim's family have written to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, asking him to investigate comments made about the case of Dennis Hutchings.

Mr Hutchings, 78, from Cawsand in Cornwall, is being prosecuted over a fatal shooting of a man in Northern Ireland in 1974.

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

Mr Hutchings, a former member of the Life Guards regiment, has pleaded not guilty to his attempted murder and is due to go on trial in Belfast next month.

His case has been at the centre of a political debate about the prosecution of military veterans in historic cases.

The Cunningham family's legal representatives wrote to the Speaker following an exchange between Mr Johnson and Conservative MP Jack Lopresti during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

According to Hansard Mr Lopresti referred to Mr Hutchings being told in the past that he would not be prosecuted.

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Dennis Hutchings (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Dennis Hutchings (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Dennis Hutchings (Gareth Fuller/PA)

He then asked if the Prime Minister accepted that if the ex-soldier goes on trial on March 9, "all the assurances, promises and manifesto commitments will amount to nothing more than meaningless empty platitudes?"

Mr Johnson reportedly responded that it was to "rectify" such matters that the Government "are finally bringing in a law to prevent the vexatious prosecution of our hard-working, hard-serving veterans when no new evidence has been produced".

Concerns have been raised about any potential impact on the rules around public statements about ongoing court cases.

In the letter sent today to Sir Lindsay, Kevin Winters of KRW Law claimed: "During PMQs yesterday both the spirit and the letter of the sub judice rule appear to have been ignored, and the integrity of the trial of Dennis Hutchings compromised.

"We respectfully request that you investigate whether the exchange yesterday constitutes a breach or violation of the rule on sub judicie."

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John Pat Cunningham

John Pat Cunningham

Photopress Belfast

John Pat Cunningham

Belfast Telegraph