Shrewsbury 24 to have their day in court

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The Court of Appeal will this week hear the cases of the Shrewsbury 24. 

The Shrewsbury 24 Campaign is seeking to overturn the prosecution of 24 building workers who were charged with conspiracy to intimidate, unlawful assembly and affray following the first ever national building workers’ strike in 1972.

The first trial in October 1973 saw Des Warren, Eric Tomlinson and John McKinsie Jones convicted of conspiracy to intimidate, unlawful assembly and affray, and sentenced to three years, two years and nine months of imprisonment respectively.

The second trial in January 1974 saw nine trade unionists were charged with unlawful assembly and affray. Brian Williams, Arthur Murray and Mike Pierce were found guilty of both charges and were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for affray and four months for unlawful assembly.

The third trial in February 1974 saw a further nine building workers charged with unlawful assembly and affray. Several defendants were given suspended prison sentences.

In 2012 the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to have their cases referred to the Court of Appeal and for these miscarriages of justice to be overturned. Now, nine years on, the cases will be heard on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Shrewsbury 24 Campaign represents twelve pickets– Des Warren, John McKinsie Jones, Ken O’Shea, Malcolm Clee, Michael Pierce, Terry Renshaw, Kevin Butcher, Bernard Williams, Alfred James, Roy Warburton, Graham Roberts and John Seaburg – while two others, Ricky Tomlinson and Arthur Murray, will be represented by the Public Interest Law Centre.

The appeal has two grounds based, upon evidence discovered in the National Archives by the Campaign’s Secretary and Researcher, Eileen Turnbull:

  • original witness statements had been destroyed by the police and this fact had not been disclosed to the defence counsel or the court; and
  • the broadcast of a highly prejudicial documentary on ITV during the first trial, Red under the Bed, the content of which was contributed to by a covert agency within the Foreign Office known as the Information Research Department.

Terry Renshaw, a convicted picket who has campaigned tirelessly for over 40 years, speaking on behalf of the pickets, said: “We are looking forward to finally having our day in court to show that we were victims of a miscarriage of justice. Without the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign we would not be where we are today. We owe a great debt of thanks to them for the tireless work that they have carried out.”

The Campaign’s Chairperson, Harry Chadwick, took part in the strike in 1972, picketing building sites in the North West. A retired carpenter and longstanding member of UCATT/Unite, he paid tribute to the support that the campaign has had from the labour movement,

“We have had tremendous support from all the trade unions, the TUC and the Labour Party. We will never forget the warm welcome and solidarity shown to us at the events that we have travelled to during the past 15 years. On behalf of the pickets and campaign, a heartfelt thank you.”

Ricky Tomlinson said: “It will have taken nearly 50 years for us to have our day in court, and for the truth to come out. People will be shocked to know the lengths the establishment went to in order to punish the working class for trying to improve their working and health and safety conditions. The building sites where, at the time, known as the Killing Fields.

“Years after my release I was surprised and shocked to receive a handwritten letter from Maurice Drake QC, the prosecuting counsel, saying he had followed my career and would rather of had a pint with me than send me to jail. We now have evidence of political interference during the trial that I think will concern the general public who believe in our justice system.”

John McDonnell MP said: “This is an appalling miscarriage of Justice that must be addressed and the truth of this fit up of trade unionists exposed. The time for truth is decades over due.”

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