Northern Ireland

John Pat Cunningham: Former soldier to be prosecuted over Benburb shooting

John Pat Cunningham Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption John Pat Cunningham was 27 at the time of his death but had a mental age of between six and 10

A former soldier will be prosecuted for the attempted murder of a man in Northern Ireland in 1974.

John Pat Cunningham, 27, who had learning difficulties, was shot dead by an Army patrol in County Armagh.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said Dennis Hutchings, 74, from New Road, Cawsand, Torpoint in Cornwall, would be prosecuted.

Mr Hutchings, who is not accused of the murder, was originally charged by detectives in April.

The charge was subject to review by the PPS, which has now been completed.

The decision to prosecute Mr Hutchings was confirmed at Armagh Magistrates' Court on Tuesday morning.

A preliminary inquiry had been scheduled for 15 December 15 but the PPS said that date could no longer be met.

"There is a target date and I am very mindful of that. That date cannot be met, however significant progress has been made," a prosecutor told the court.

Earlier, PPS assistant director Michael Agnew said: "The PPS has carried out a careful examination of all of the available evidence and information in this case.

"We have concluded that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction and that the test for prosecution is met."

Mr Cunningham, who had the mental age of a child between six and 10, had a fear of men in uniform and was apparently running away from an Army patrol when he was killed close to Benburb, a village on the border between counties Armagh and Tyrone.

A new investigation into Mr Cunningham's death was launched in 2013 after the director of public prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC, requested a fresh examination of the circumstances the shooting.