Belfast Telegraph

Ex-soldier's trial over vulnerable man's death to be preceded by gun test firing

A live test fire exercise is to be conducted before the trial of a former soldier in connection with the death of a vulnerable man during the Northern Ireland conflict.

Dennis Hutchings, 76, faces a two or three-week hearing on an attempted murder charge linked to the shooting of John Pat Cunningham, who had learning difficulties, in disputed circumstances in County Armagh in 1974, a lawyer told a court in Belfast.

When the unarmed victim, 27, was shot he was running away from an Army patrol because he feared men in uniform, a previous hearing was told.

Hutchings' barrister James Lewis QC said in preparation for the case "another expert was to conduct a live test firing exercise".

He said the only place to do that was in Leeds and it would involve a self-loading rifle.

Shots were fired from Hutchings' rifle during the incident, prosecutors told a previous hearing.

The pensioner, of Cawsand, Cornwall, who is suffering from kidney failure, is also facing a charge of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to Mr Cunningham.

His trial is expected to last two or three weeks, Mr Lewis added.

The case was mentioned on Friday before Mr Justice Adrian Colton and involved pre-trial legal matters.

The defence has notified the prosecution it intends to mount an "abuse of process" application in a bid to halt the case.

Mr Lewis QC said there had been some "slippage" in preparations but hoped the court would not blame his legal team.

A lawyer told the court: "The abuse of process could take a full day. It is multi-faceted."

A protest was held last Saturday by ex-servicemen in London opposed to the prosecution of Hutchings. It was addressed by the accused.

It was met with a counter-demonstration by supporters of the dead man's family.

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