Eight North Wales construction workers will now have the opportunity to have their cases reviewed after being prosecuted for trade union activity.
Des Warren, John McKinsie Jones, Ken O’Shea, Michael Pierce, Terry Renshaw, Kevin Butcher, Malcolm Clee, and Bernard Williams were jailed or given suspended prison sentences in 1973-74, alongside 16 other trade unionists.
The group – which came to be known as the Shrewsbury 24 – faced charges including ‘unlawful assembly’, ‘conspiracy to intimidate’ and ‘affray’ after they joined a national building workers’ strike in Shrewsbury in 1972.
Famously, the 24 included Royle Family actor Ricky Tomlinson, who was given a two-year prison sentence. Speaking to Socialist Worker he said:
“It’s bloody outrageous that it has taken 47 years for this to happen. “It’s a small victory and it might help to expose more of what actually happened.”
The prosecutions occurred after the strike was over, in a series of trials held in 1972, 1973 and 1974, despite the fact that 80 police officers were present at the action and no arrests or cautions were made on the day.
Many of those prosecuted were blacklisted by sinister employer-funded groups like the 'Economic League' and found it difficult to find work. Many felt abandoned by both the Labour Party and Trade Union leadership.
Ricky Tomlinson said:
“We were let down by the trade union leaders and the governments, Labour and Tory, that blocked the truth.
“But we also had a lot of support, at the time and since. We were backed by workers in London and elsewhere and by people in Socialist Worker such as Jim Nichol and Paul Foot.
“You have to keep fighting.”
An application was made to the Criminal Cases Review Commission eight years ago to have the case reviewed by the Court of Appeal. Unfortunately, several of the Shrewsbury 24 have passed away before they got their chance to appeal for justice.
Terry Renshaw, one of the picketers, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the decision and look forward to our day in court to show we were victims of a miscarriage of justice.”
The successful application was made with the support of the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign, which Renshaw said were owed “a great debt of thanks” for their “tireless work”.
The Campaign will argue that evidence showing the police destroyed witness statements instead of making them available to defence lawyers, and the airing of ITV documentary Red Under the Bed prejudiced the trial.
This article first appeared in the British Worker the weekly internal newsletter of the Solidarity union.