Socialist Worker

A killer soldier is rendered a hero by the establishment

Issue No. 2781

Charlie Agnew, nephew of John Pat Cunningham with a MOD apology and picture of John Pat Cunningham (Pic: Alamy)


The British army turned out in force for the funeral of one of its killers last week.

Retired soldier Dennis Hutchings, died last month of Covid-19 during his trial for the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham and attempting to cause him grievous bodily harm with intent.

Hutchings shotJohn Pat in the back as he ran from an army patrol in a field along the Armagh-Tyrone border in 1974.

Hutchings was buried last week with full military ­trappings, in his home town of Plymouth.

Speaking at his funeral, former defence minister Johnny Mercer MP called Hutchings “a good man” and “the best example of the British non-commissioned officer”. Members of the Life Guards Regiment ­carried Hutchings’ coffin into the church. It was draped in a Union Flag, floral tributes and a military hat.

Hundreds of current and former soldiers and other mourners were accompanied by dozens of motorbikes from Rolling Thunder UK. Rolling Thunder UK says it is “A group of HM Forces Veterans and civilian supporters.

“We are all angered and appalled by the vexatious prosecution of our veterans who were tasked to Operation Banner (British Armed Forces’ operation in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 2007). These prosecutions are being driven by Irish Republicans,” it said.

The Ministry of Defence, exceptionally, authorised military pallbearers despite Hutchings dying not in battle but of natural causes, ­half way through a trial where he faced serious charges.

John Pat’s family has already endured untrue claims that their relative had a connection to the IRA.

They also had to tolerate campaigners for Hutchings telling them they should not have allowed John Pat “out on the streets”.

In asking for a new inquest, which led to a trial, the family were also accused of “cruelly persecuting” Hutchings, who was feted by Unionist politicians during his trial in Belfast.


MoD settles Iraq cases

The Ministry of Defence has quietly settled 417 Iraq compensation claims.

It has paid out several million pounds to resolve accusations that British troops subjected Iraqis to cruel and inhumane treatment, arbitrary detention or assault.

This follows high court rulings that concluded there were breaches of the Geneva conventions and the Human Rights Act during the military operation that followed the invasion in 2003.

Martyn Day, a senior partner with Leigh Day, the solicitors that brought the action, said, “While we’ve had politicians like David Cameron and Theresa May criticising us for supposedly ambulance chasing, the MoD has been quietly settling claims.

“The settlements here cover a mix of cases, instances of false imprisonment, assault,” the lawyer added.

Many of the details of the cases remain confidential, although one involved the death of a 13 year old boy.

The financial settlements were based on four test cases concluded in the high court in 2017.

The four were awarded a total of £84,000 based on three separate incidents.


Substandard submarines

The US Navy has sacked three top crew members aboard a nuclear submarine that crashed into an underwater mountain.

Commander Cameron Aljilani and two others were removed after an investigation into the incident in the South China Sea.

This is an area where the US and its allies are seeking to push out China.

The USS Connecticut struck the “seamount” last month, forcing the vessel to come to the surface for a week and sail to the US territory of Guam.

Navy officials say the crew members “could have prevented” the collision.

For weeks the crash was covered up by the military and hardly mentioned by the media. They might have asked why the submarine was there.

The Connecticut is one of three seawolf class submarines, which are assumed to be on spying missions.

But they can be equipped with nuclear warheads.


New British contracts for Israeli arms dealer

Israel’s largest arms corporation, Elbit Systems, which is complicit in attacks on Palestinians, was awarded two British ministry of defence two contracts last week.

One, worth up to £58 million is to supply the army a training programme called the Interim Combined Arms Virtual Simulation (Deployable).

According to the Defence Contracts Online announcement, the programme will be used “to provide teams and junior commanders with a simple, effective computer-based training environment that enables them to carry out tactics, techniques, and procedures.”

The second is a 13-year contract alongside the firms Babcock and QinetiQ to deliver “cutting edge electronic warfare systems” to the navy.

Britain’s military already uses Elbit Systems having employed its Watchkeeper drones for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as for repressing migrants in the English Channel.

These drones are also under consideration for domestic policing usage.

Planet killing fuel companies pay no tax


The Department of Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock’s former fiefdom, has declined freedom of information requests for correspondence between him and his current partner Gina Coladangelo. It says it has found 2,349 potentially relevant documents but it would take too long to look at them.

When Hancock gets his rumoured £100,000 to write a book on how he saved us from Covid perhaps he could remember what was in the emails .


Tory rule is good for some, including the disease scurvy. Cases of malnutrition have almost doubled since 2010. In the 2010-11 financial year, 4,657 people were treated in hospital for the condition.

By 2020-21, this had risen to 10,109. Statistics compiled by the NHS also show that cases of the Victorian disease scurvy, have doubled.


Planet killing fuel companies pay no tax

Shell and BP have not paid any corporation tax on oil and gas production in the North Sea for the last three years, company filings reveal.

Between them, the oil giants together produce more than 1.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases a year.

They also benefit from billions of pounds of tax breaks. Shell and BP paid no corporation tax or production levies on North Sea oil operations between 2018 and 2020.

They claimed tax relief of nearly £400 million, according to annual “payments to governments” reports.

Over the same three‑year period, they paid shareholders more than £44 billion in dividends.

Chancellor George Osborne effectively scrapped a petroleum revenue tax of 35 percent in 2016. And oil giants can claim billions of pounds in taxpayer handouts for decommissioning rigs.

We will foot a bill of more than £18 billion for the decommissioning of the oil and gas infrastructure.


Things they say 

‘Part of the reason that we encourage a laddish culture is that ultimately our soldiers have to go close and personal with the enemy’

General Sir Nick Carter, outgoing chief of the defence staff, responding to allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual assault within the armed forces

‘It’s good that it’s not all just about politics, that they have real world experience’

Health Minister Sajid Javid defends MPs’ second jobs. The fact that in 12 months as a backbencher he made £350,000 as a consultant to bankers Morgan Stanley is a coincidence

‘At the point when you claimed it was incorrect, you were in talks to take a job yourself’

Journalist asks Keir Starmer if he is a hypocrite.

‘No, I wasn’t. There was debate, but nothing came of it’

Starmer explains that debating taking a job is not talking about it


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