Northern Ireland news

British army veterans march on Westminster in support of former soldier facing prosecution in connection with death of a vulnerable man during the Troubles

Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings (left), who has been charged over the fatal 1974 shooting of a man in Northern Ireland, takes part in a protest in London to call for an end to prosecutions of veterans who served during the Troubles. Picture by Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Marie Louise McConville

HUNDREDS of army veterans marched in Westminster on Saturday alongside a former British soldier who is facing prosecution in connection with the death of a vulnerable man during the Troubles.

Dennis Hutchings (76), is due to stand trial on charges linked to the shooting of John Pat Cunningham, a 27-year-old with learning difficulties who was killed in disputed circumstances in Co Armagh in 1974.

Hutchings is accused of the attempted murder of an unarmed Mr Cunningham.

A court has heard that when the victim was shot he was running away from an British Army patrol because he had a fear of men in uniform.

Hutchings, of Cawsand, Cornwall, is also facing a charge of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to Mr Cunningham.

Campaign group Justice For Northern Ireland Veterans organised Saturday's solidarity march to protest at a number of recent investigations into the conduct of soldiers stationed in Northern Ireland during the conflict, which they say has been an unfair witch-hunt.

The march was met with a counter demonstration, by campaigners holding a silent vigil and carrying placards which read "I am John Pat Cunningham". At points, there were verbal clashes.

As the group of ex-soldiers marched past parliament, Mr Hutchings threw his military medals at the building.

Mr Hutchings said: "Today went very well. I hope it shows the Government they have to do something about this absolute travesty of justice".

Paul O'Connor, from the Pat Finucane Centre, which works with the Cunningham family, was among those counter-protesting.

"I know that the British Army has had a culture of impunity over the years and they believe that they are not subject to the rule of law like anyone else, but they are - or they should be."

Supporters of former British soldier Dennis Hutchings, who has been charged over the fatal 1974 shooting of a man in Northern Ireland, take part in a protest in London to call for an end to prosecutions of veterans who served during the Troubles. Picture by Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Supporters of John Pat Cunningham hold a counter protest as supporters of former British soldier Dennis Hutchings, who has been charged over the fatal 1974 shooting of Cunningham in Northern Ireland, march to call for an end to prosecutions of veterans who served during the Troubles. Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings, who has been charged over the fatal 1974 shooting of a man in Northern Ireland, takes part in a protestin London to call for an end to prosecutions of veterans who served during the Troubles. Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings (centre), who has been charged over the fatal 1974 shooting of a man in Northern Ireland, takes part in a protestin London to call for an end to prosecutions of veterans who served during the Troubles. Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Former British soldier Dennis Hutchings (centre), who has been charged over the fatal 1974 shooting of a man in Northern Ireland, takes part in a protestin London to call for an end to prosecutions of veterans who served during the Troubles. Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

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