Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Justice at last for the Shrewsbury 24


The Court of Appeal has overturned the convictions of 14 men sentenced for their involvement in pickets in 1972. Two dozen trade unionists who picketed during the national builders' strike were charged with offences including unlawful assembly, conspiracy to intimidate and affray.

The actor Ricky Tomlinson was convicted and jailed for two years. He said: "Whilst it is only right that these convictions are overturned, it is a sorry day for British justice. My thoughts today are with my friend and comrade Des Warren."

 Six of the 14 who brought the action have since died, including Dennis Warren, who was jailed for three years.

Arthur Murray, who was convicted of affray and unlawful assembly and sentenced to six months, said: "We were innocent all along, yet it has taken us nearly 50 years to clear our names." He added: "Serious questions need to be asked about the role of the building industry bosses in our convictions and the highest offices of government who all had a hand in our trial and conviction. Make no mistake, our convictions were a political witch-hunt."

Tomlinson echoed his remarks, saying: "We were brought to trial at the apparent behest of the building industry bosses, the Conservative government and ably supported by the secret state. This was a political trial not just of me, and the Shrewsbury pickets - but was a trial of the trade union movement."

Terry Renshaw said: “The police and the prosecuting authorities used every trick in the book to secure guilty verdicts, even if it meant trampling over our rights and manipulating the evidence.”

In June 1972, trade unionists called the UK's first-ever national builders' strike in protest against pay, unjust employment practices and dangerous conditions on sites. Trade unionists travelled to demonstrate from one site to another and in September six coach-loads of strikers demonstrated in Shrewsbury and Telford. Police arrested none of the demonstrators that day but five months later the picketers were charged and subsequently convicted.

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