Northern Ireland The Troubles Falls Road Belfast British Soldiers
Northern Ireland

UK Government 'Has Hung Us Out To Dry', Northern Ireland Veteran Says

A Northern Ireland veteran charged with attempted murder has said the Government has 'hung veterans out to dry'.

Northern Ireland The Troubles Falls Road Belfast British Soldiers

(Picture: PA).

A Northern Ireland veteran charged with attempted murder has said the Government has 'hung veterans out to dry' over investigations into troops who fought in the Troubles.

A small group of protestors gathered outside the Ministry of Defence on Friday to demand the end to probes into historical allegations.

Others were expected to meet outside Army recruitment centres elsewhere in the UK to issue warnings to prospective soldiers.

Dennis Hutchings, a 77-year-old former member of the Life Guards regiment, joined protesters in Plymouth.

He is accused in relation to the fatal shooting of a man with learning difficulties in 1974.

Mr Hutchings said the historic investigations are "absolutely appalling" and called for a statute of limitations on offences for service personnel. 

"We're in a situation where we're being hounded by lawyers," he added.

"The Government has hung us veterans out to dry."

Mr Hutchings, from Cawsand in Cornwall, is due to stand trial in Belfast charged with attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent. He denies the charges.

John Pat Cunningham, 27, was shot in the back in Co Armagh as he ran away from an Army patrol. His family argued that he ran across a field because he feared men in uniform.

Veterans protest outside the Ministry of Defence (Picture: PA).
Veterans protest outside the Ministry of Defence (Picture: PA).

Alan Barry, co-founder of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans pressure group and who fought in the conflict with the Grenadier Guards, said: "Veterans are being thrown to the wolves.

"We laid our lives on the line for this country.

"We went to Northern Ireland to fight terrorism, and veterans are basically being ignored by the Government."

A Government spokeswoman said the welfare of veterans and serving personnel is of the "utmost importance", and insisted they are provided with legal support.

"It is only due to the courageous efforts of our security forces that we have the relative peace and stability that Northern Ireland enjoys today," she added.

"We are now considering how best to improve the current system and ensure that there is no unfair and disproportionate focus on former members of the Armed Forces."

TROUBLES, NORTHERN IRELAND CAR BOMB PA IMAGES
Aftermath of an explosion during the Troubles (Picture: PA).

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has previously said there is "no support" for a "Northern Ireland-only statute of limitations".

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) statistics have indicated more of its legacy resources are used to investigate paramilitaries.

A PSNI spokesman said: "We have a legal responsibility to carry out investigations into deaths, which we do with regards to the human rights of all."

The protesters in London planned to hand in their response to the Government's consultation on legacy arrangements, before its deadline later on Friday.

The 2014 Stormont House political agreement involving the British and Irish Governments and the main Northern Irish political parties envisaged a mechanism for dealing with the legacy of violence.

It was to include the creation of an Historic Investigations Unit to probe old cases for opportunities for criminal prosecutions.

Earlier this month, it was announced by a solicitor that the MoD had paid £700,000 in damages to the families of two men shot dead on Bloody Sunday.