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Keep Fighting Dennis

Dennis Hutchings is dying; his heart is failing and now his kidneys have packed up.


Since last week, he has been on kidney dialysis, travelling an hour to hospital to spend the next five hours having his blood cleaned, wired up to a machine that is keeping him alive. Just.


But with his health failing, Mr Hutchings, a 78-year-old Army veteran, is also facing trial for attempted murder over the death of a man shot during the Troubles 45 years ago.


Mr Hutchings, a former staff sergeant in the Life Guards Regiment, is now facing the prospect of a trial held in Northern Ireland, interrupted every two days for him to attend hospital to be hooked up to a dialysis machine.


The disclosure that a former soldier is still being dragged through the courts, despite his serious illness, will cause further outrage at a time when the Government is under pressure to drop the so-called ‘witch hunt’ of troops who served in Northern Ireland.


In an interview with the Telegraph Mr Hutchings, who lives in Cawsand, Cornwall, said: “It’s a bloody, utter disgrace they are still pursuing me. It’s disgusting. This is making my final years a total hell.


Dennis Hutchings at a protest in parliament against the treatment of Northern Ireland veterans

Dennis Hutchings at a protest in parliament against the treatment of Northern Ireland veterans CREDIT: PAUL GROVER

“The doctors say my life expectancy isn’t good. My consultant thinks I should be dead anyway by now.”


Mr Hutchings, who served 26 years with the British Army, had delayed dialysis, hoping to put off the medical intervention until he could clear his name at a trial. But he can no longer wait after doctors concluded he had “progressed to end stage renal failure requiring dialysis”.


He invited the Telegraph into his hospital room in Plymouth to highlight his serious illness. Mr Hutchings requires dialysis three times a week. The ex-soldier was the first veteran to be charged over deaths in Northern Ireland since police began looking at ‘legacy’ cases.


Earlier this month, the Supreme Court denied him the right to a trial by jury, deciding his case will be heard by a judge alone - under rules introduced during the Troubles to deal with paramilitary and terrorist offences.


Mr Hutchings said: “I haven’t got very good life chances going forward because of all my health problems with my kidneys and my heart.


“I will have to go to trial in Northern Ireland and every other day go to hospital for dialysis. The dialysis lasts five hours, plus 20 minutes at the beginning to connect me up and 20 minutes to disconnect.


“They plug you up to a machine that takes the blood out of your body, cleans it and puts it back. It’s the job your kidneys would normally do but of course mine are just about finished. The dialysis also takes out excess fluids which is also what the kidneys used to do. If I don’t have the dialysis the fluid builds up and ends up in the lungs.”


He says that by being deprived of a jury trial, he is being treated ‘like a terrorist’.