IT is the fear of many old soldiers: that they will face what they see as unfair prosecution for what they did in uniform.

But only a tiny handful of Britain’s veterans of Northern Ireland’s Troubles are ever likely to be accused of any crime.

Over the last eight years Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service or PPS has taken prosecutorial decisions in 26 cases related to the conflict. Just three of these involve soldiers.

One concerns Dennis Hutchings. Now 77, Mr Hutchings has denied a charge of attempted murder over the death of John Pat Cunningham.

The 27-year-old, who had learning difficulties, was shot in the back as he ran away from an Army patrol near Benburb, Tyrone, in 1974.

Mr Hutchings has argueds that he was firing warning shots to get Mr Cunningham m to stop and that the death was accidental.

In a separate case, two former paratroopers are to stand trial charged with murdering an Official IRA man in Belfast.

The former soldiers, who cannot be identified, allegedly killed Joe McCann in Belfast in April 1972. The defendants, now in their 60s, are known only as Soldier A and Soldier C.

They were granted temporary anonymity at an early stage amid fears that identification could put their lives at risk.

McCann was shot in disputed circumstances near his home in the Market area.

In the third case currently before Northern Ireland’s courts, a former soldier has been charged over the death of Aidan McAnespie, 23, in Aughnacloy, also in County Tyrone, in February 1988.

Former Grenadier Guardsman David Jonathan Holden, 48, has been accused of gross negligence manslaughter. Mr Holden has claimed his hands were wet and his finger slipped on the trigger of his heavy machine gun.

The PPS is still considering whether to prosecute one further case which involves members of the military.

Authorities in Northern Ireland continue to prosecute crimes committed during the Troubles. Paramilitary fighters convicted before the Good Friday peace process are free, but on licence.