Decorated veteran Dennis Hutchings, 77, who faces trial over a shooting nearly 45 years ago, said he has “no faith” he will get a fair trial in Northern Ireland. Earlier this month he went to the Supreme Court to seek a jury trial in Belfast instead of the judge-only trial he is facing. Judge-only trials were introduced in Northern Ireland for cases relating to terrorism or sectarianism amid fears of jury tampering.
Mr Hutchings, one of five British soldiers facing trial over The Troubles, said: “If they say they cannot get a jury for a case in Northern Ireland, all service people facing trial there should have the option of being tried in England, Scotland or Wales.
“That would remove the need for a judge-only trial and give veterans – whether of the Armed Forces or RUC – the right to appear before a jury.”
Earlier this month prosecutors announced that one soldier – Soldier F – will be prosecuted over Bloody Sunday in which paratroopers shot dead 13 protesters in Londonderry’s Bogside in 1972. Another wounded protester died later from a tumour.
Mr Hutchings, who is seriously ill and lives in Cornwall, said: “Can you imagine Soldier F getting a fair trial in Northern Ireland? It’s impossible. I have been called a murderer in the Northern Ireland media. I have no faith in the system there.”
Mr Hutchings who served for 26 years in the Life Guards, denies charges of attempted murder and grievous bodily harm with intent over a 1974 shooting incident.
A soldier facing trial over a shooting has ‘no faith’ he will get a fair trial in Northern Ireland
He has twice been investigated and cleared over the killing of John Pat Cunningham, 27, who was unarmed and had learning difficulties.
He was shot when he ran away from an Army patrol.
But in 2015 Mr Hutchings, the last survivor of the three soldiers in the immediate area of the incident, was arrested and charged over the death.
Mr Hutchings spoke out as he vowed to attend the premiere of the documentary The Great Betrayal made by Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans founder Alan Barry.
It will be shown to veterans in the War Memorial Bar of The Don in Stockton on Tees on April 19.
The bar is used by the Green Howards and is dedicated to veterans. It contains a wealth of military memorabilia and 7,000 poppy crosses.
Under Tony Blair’s Good Friday Agreement, more than 500 convicted terrorists were released early and 300 on-the-run letters or “Letters of Comfort” were issued to suspected terrorists telling them they would not be pursued.
Mr Hutchings said: “This documentary is very important because it shows how veterans have been betrayed by politicians ever since Tony Blair secured the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
“At that time the IRA was on its knees. It could no do anything without us knowing about it.
“But Sinn Fein had Blair round its little finger and he was prepared to sacrifice us to get his bit of glory. He’s not alone. Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May also forgot us.
“We need to get the message out as to how we have been treated.”
Gavin Williamson wants a 10-year time limit for prosecutions
During The Troubles between the late 1960s and 1998 more than 3,500 people were killed including 722 members of the Armed Forces and Police.
Government figures suggest that 60 per cent of killings were caused by Republican terrorists, mainly factions of the IRA, 30 per cent by Loyalist paramilitaries, and 10 per cent by members of the security forces “who in almost all cases were acting within the law”.
Mr Barry, who is crowdfunding to raise money to apply the finishing touches to the documentary, said the premiere will give a preview of the final version to be released in August to mark the 50th anniversary of British troops being deployed to Northern Ireland.
He said: “British veterans have been betrayed and we want to get the message out through this documentary. We went there to keep the peace and while terrorists have been let out of jail the British Government is hounding veterans in a witch-hunt.
“The Great Betrayal tells our story and exposes the one-sided witch-hunt against British veterans.”
Mrs May has repeatedly told MPs that the current balance of investigations in relation to the Troubles is “patently unfair”.
The Northern Ireland Office is drawing up plans for a new approach to “legacy” killings in The Troubles and is under pressure from Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to introduce a 10-year time limit for prosecutions.
But all moves on the reform have been held up by parliamentary logjam caused by Brexit.
* To donate to The Great Betrayal please go to https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/alan-barry-1?utm_term=ZZmErVQP8