My Dad, Des Warren – By Andy Warren

I would like to take the opportunity of thanking the Official Shrewsbury 24 Campaign Committee for the work they have put into preparing the application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission on behalf of the pickets. They have campaigned tirelessly over the past ten years raising awareness about the pickets, fundraising and researching the background to the case.

Ricky Tomlinson with Andy Warren, Liverpool Town Hall, February 2012.

Ricky Tomlinson with Andy Warren, Liverpool Town Hall, February 2012. © Chris Gregory 2011

From before I was born my father was an active trade unionist. My earliest memory of him was being crammed with my sisters and brothers in the back of a car while he sang Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra songs to us. He was a brilliant crooner. He had a good voice and knew all the words. This is one of the happiest memories that I have of our dad.

There were five children in our family. When our dad was sent to jail in 1973 I was aged 10, Nick was 12, Diane was 8, Katy was 6 and Chris was 4.

My dad had a caring disposition. He disliked fat cats and profiteers. He cared about working conditions on building sites, whether it was about being exposed to asbestos or other toxic materials, or accidents that could have been prevented.

London demonstration 1973

London demonstration 1973. © Socialist Worker 2011.

My dad argued that he was not a criminal, he was a political prisoner. He spent eight and a half months in solitary confinement. Both him and Ricky Tomlinson went on hunger strikes in protest at the way that the prison authorities treated them. My dad endured three hunger strikes, the longest lasting 22 days. At Christmas time 1974 both him and Ricky took a decision not to wear prison uniform to make a point to the Government that they were innocent. They wore only towels for clothing. They maintained their protest for three months.

In the two years eight months that my dad spent in jail he was moved thirteen times to different prisons around the country. The policy of the authorities, if they had a “problem” prisoner, was to transfer him to another prison. This was meant to demoralise the prisoner, as each prison had different personnel and a different regime. In the first five weeks of his sentence he was moved four times. Often we would all arrive at a prison to visit my dad that had been weeks in the planning only to be told he had been moved the previous night. We were never given any notice of the transfer. Upset, we had no choice but to make our way home again.

Whilst inside the prison doctor gave him drugs. This was part of a notorious policy of using medication to pacify prisoners. It was known as the liquid cosh. Whilst in HMP Leicester the prison doctor gave him three drugs, amytriptylene perphenazine and nitrazepam. We have always believed that these drugs brought on a medical condition similar to Parkinson’s disease.

When my dad was finally released and came home he was never the same. The time he spent behind bars took a terrible toll on him. When he arrived home he was completely debilitated. When my dad went in to prison in 1973 he was a well-built, strong man, full of energy and with his spirit intact. When he came out he had lost a lot of weight, but his spirit was still strong. He was not bitter. His intention was to return to work and carry on with his life with us all.

Families demonstratesupport 1974

Families at the head of the Merseyside contingent at Euston Station ready to march to Parliament 20 March 1974. Left to Right John Carpenter, Marlene Tomlinson, Rita Carpenter and Nicholas Warren. © Socialist Worker.

My dad never worked again. Every employer in the country blacklisted him. After a time his health began to fail due to the treatment that he had endured in prison, particularly the drugs. Dad sued the Prison authorities for giving him these drugs and they settled out of court to avoid the issues coming out in public.

Over the following years dad’s health worsened until he became wheelchair bound. He died in 2004, just 66 years of age. His early death was in sharp contrast to both his mother and his father who were 91 and 87 respectively and his two sisters are both in their late 60’s.

I look forward to the CCRC considering the application favourably and referring the case to the Court of Appeal to have the miscarriage of justice overturned. For my family and myself we will at last see justice done, even though it has taken almost 40 years.