Trial of ex-British solider for attempted murder could take place by Skype

Belfast court hears man (79) is facing charges of attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent

The trial of a former British soldier on an attempted murder charge could take place by Skype, a court has heard.

A lawyer for Dennis Hutchings applied for an adjournment of the case on Friday over concerns that the 79-year-old accused would not be able to attend his trial in person for health reasons.

Belfast Crown Court was told that Mr Hutchings is receiving medical treatment and his doctor said it is not safe for him to travel.

The defendant, from Cawsand in Cornwall, a former member of the Life Guards regiment, has pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in Co Tyrone in 1974.


Mr Cunningham, a 27-year-old man with learning difficulties, was shot in the back as he ran away from an army patrol near Benburb.

The accused, who is on dialysis twice a week for renal failure, is facing charges of attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent.

Mr Justice O’Hara told the court on Friday that a video-link will allow Hutchings to participate fully in the trial and that the court could sit two days a week if the accused is willing to participate in the trial by Skype.

Defence lawyer Ian Turkington said however that there could be a visibility challenge. He said his client wants to be present in court for his trial.

He told the court: “It’s not safe for him to travel. The consultant said he should not travel and the reason for that is clear – between buses, trains, airports, airplanes and hotels, and backwards and forwards.”

Mr Justice O’Hara said on Friday the country is potentially weeks away from the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak and asking for further delay could see the trial put back to September.

The defence lawyer said for his client "to face these [ in his living room somewhere in England is not the preferred method of standing trial.

“We are in uncharted territory.”

He asked the judge for a delay to consider the steps needed for his client to participate in a trial through Skype.

The judge adjourned the case to Monday, March 23.

- PA