Shrewsbury Pickets conspiracy exposed

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The Shrewsbury Pickets Campaign, led by former pickets Ricky Tomlinson and Terry Renshaw, with Andy Warren (son of deceased picket Des Warren) yesterday submitted its case to the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) in Birmingham.

In 1973/74, 24 Shrewsbury pickets, who had been involved in the 1972 building strike, were charged under the 1875 Conspiracy Act.

Two were jailed: Des Warren for three years and Ricky Tomlinson for two.

Yesterday’s submission to the CCRC shows how the case mounted against them was political and an abuse of power by the then Conservative government.

Terry Renshaw said yesterday: ‘I believe we will finally see justice and prove that this was a political trial.

‘The government can’t have it both ways by denying it was political and still refusing nearly 40 years on to release all documents appertaining to the trials as it would threaten the national security of the country.’

Ricky Tomlinson said: ‘We were innocent then and we’re innocent now. I promised Dessie that I would continue the fight to clear the names of all convicted pickets.’

Steve Murphy, General Secretary of UCATT, said: ‘This is a highly significant day in the battle for justice by the Shrewsbury Pickets.

‘For nearly 40 years the pickets and their families have been trying to clear their names and overturn the grave injustice they suffered.

‘The CCRC needs to act quickly on this case and right this wrong.’

The case argues that the pickets were the victims of a government plot to make an example of trade union activists who took part in successful picketing.

The men who received the longest sentences, Ricky Tomlinson and Des Warren, became known as the Shrewsbury Two.

Jailing him for three years, the judge told Warren: ‘you are no martyr . . . You thought you could flout the law. You were wrong.’

Warren replied: ‘The only conspiracy was between the government, the employers and the police.’

The incoming Labour government of 1974 kept Warren in prison for the full three years of his sentence, with the then Home Secretary Roy Jenkins turning down requests for his release.

The TUC leadership refused to lift a finger and rejected demands for a general strike to release him, and the Communist Party, of which he was then a member, sabotaged the campaign.

Warren suffered permanent injury to his health from drugs administered in jail and died of Parkinson’s disease in 2004.

Yesterday’s application to the CCRC by the solicitors, Bindmans, is based on four years of work by researcher Eileen Turnbull.

It shows that the Tory government interfered with the judicial process by encouraging the prosecutions to deter effective picketing.

Turnbull said that she used the National Archives at Kew to uncover details of the decision-making process in the prosecution.

‘There is a lot of material and we are very optimistic that we will finally be able to overturn what we believe is a miscarriage of justice,’ she said.

The legal submission claims that the trials were an ‘abuse of process’ and the convictions should be quashed by the court of appeal, to which the CCRC has the power to refer cases.