YESTERDAY’S decision by the Court of Appeal to overturn the convictions of the Shrewsbury Pickets after a nearly 50-year campaign has been hailed as a ‘joyous and just day’ for the 24 workers and their families by Unite said.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘Today is a joyous and just day for the 24, and for working people everywhere, but these innocent workers should never have been put in this miserable position by the forces of the British state.
‘We salute the heroic men and their families and their enormous courage in taking on the apparatus of the state in order to clear their names. History will rightly record their heroism.
‘I send my very best wishes to my good friend Ricky Tomlinson, who can take enormous pride from today’s ruling, and my thoughts today are with Dessie Warren, who sadly did not live to see justice delivered, and his family who fought on in his name.
‘It is also a landmark day in trade union history. For nearly 50 years this group of workers have been defending themselves against deep, criminal injustices perpetrated by the state. Finally, the truth has been heard and justice has been done.
‘On behalf of Unite, I want to pay tribute to their determination and to the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign, without whose work and commitment this victory for them and the working class would not have been possible.
‘However, this day must also be marked with sadness, sadness for those who have not lived to see justice secured.
‘Not only should the pickets never have been convicted, but the failure to overturn such clearly wrongful convictions for so long, casts a dark stain on society.
‘It is vital that this miscarriage of justice is never forgotten. The pickets were victims of the state whose agencies, including the police, the judiciary and the intelligence services, conspired to make an example of ordinary trade unionists simply campaigning for better pay and safer working conditions for all building workers.’
The 24 Shrewsbury pickets were arrested and charged with over 200 offences including unlawful assembly, affray, intimidation and conspiracy to intimidate, five months after the ending of the 1972 building strike.
Following a series of trials beginning in October 1973, six of the pickets were sent to prison, with the remainder receiving non-custodial sentences.
The pickets have been fighting to secure justice ever since. Unite and its predecessor unions have been major supporters of the campaign. The pickets were all members of predecessor unions of Unite (T&G and Ucatt).
The GMB described the announcement as ‘fantastic news’.
Warren Kenny, GMB Acting General Secretary, said: ‘It’s fantastic news that after nearly half a century of campaigning the convictions of the Shrewsbury 24 have finally been lifted.
‘We pay tribute to those who were wrongly convicted and to the campaigners who have worked tirelessly to throw light on the collusion between the building industry and police.
‘These pickets were prosecuted just because they had the audacity to ask for better working conditions and fair pay.’