Shrewsbury pickets’ case in Court of Appeal

This article originally appeared in the Morning Star,  30/01/2021.

Could justice at last be on the horizon for the building workers prosecuted for picketing during the national strike in 1972? EILEEN TURNBULL reports on the latest developments in their long fight to clear their names.

ON FEBRUARY 3-4 2021, the Court of Appeal will hear the appeals of the north Wales building workers who were prosecuted for picketing during the 1972 national building workers’ strike.

Six received prison sentences and 16 received suspended prison sentences. Only two were found not guilty. They have all maintained their innocence of all charges.

Due to the risks from coronavirus and government travel restrictions, we are unable to ask supporters to gather at the court to show their solidarity. We will provide updates on our website.

The Shrewsbury 24 Campaign was launched in 2006 to overturn this miscarriage of justice.

The campaign represents 12 pickets including Dennis Warren (deceased), John McKinsie Jones, Kenneth O’Shea (deceased), John Clee, William Pierce, Terence Renshaw, Patrick Kevin Butcher, Bernard Williams, Alfred James (deceased), Samuel Roy Warburton (deceased), Graham Roberts (deceased) and John Kenneth Seaburg (deceased).

It has been a long, hard road to get the case into court again. We needed to persuade the Criminal Cases Review Commission to use its powers to refer the cases to the Court of Appeal.

We delivered our application to the CCRC on April 4 2012 and over the next five years we sent them several tranches of documents that I discovered through trawling the archives at the National Archives, Kew, the Modern Records Centre, Warwick, and repositories in Salford, Oxford, Cambridge, Salford, Westminster, Bournemouth, Shropshire and Hull.

In October 2017 the CCRC turned the applications and two of the pickets withdrew from the case.*

However, the remaining eight applicants never gave up and challenged the CCRC through a judicial review in April 2019.

Their solidarity and courageous stand paid off when the CCRC finally referred their cases to the Court of Appeal in March 2020.

The pickets’ appeal next week has two grounds:

• 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, 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, paid tribute to the support of trade unions: “We have had tremendous support from trade unionists the length and breadth of the country.

“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.”

I would also like to pay tribute to the Morning Star for supporting the campaign through thick and thin. The paper has been remarkable in its commitment to obtain justice for the pickets.

*Arthur Murray and Ricky Tomlinson. They reapplied to the CCRC in March 2020 and their cases will now also be considered, although they have their own lawyer.

Eileen Turnbull is Shrewsbury 24 Campaign researcher and secretary