Campaigners are one step closer to overturning the wrongful convictions of 24 building workers arrested for trade union activity in the early 1970s.
The Shrewsbury 24 Campaign, supported and funded by Unite, won a crucial victory yesterday (1 May) in its long struggle to overturn the convictions of the building workers, who were tried in 1973/74 for picketing during the national strike.
In a highly unusual move, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) agreed to reconsider the referral of the convictions to the Court of Appeal halfway through a judicial review of its refusal to do so at the Birmingham Administrative Court.
Speaking after the CCRC’s decision, Unite member and convicted picket Terry Renshaw said, “When I left court yesterday I almost cried with joy. We have now had three judges saying that we have an arguable case. We look forward to the day when the CCRC sends our case back to the Court of Appeal.”
The CCRC had originally refused to make the referral despite the ample grounds submitted by the pickets’ legal team.
These grounds included evidence showing that original witness statements had been destroyed and that this fact had not been disclosed to the defence counsel at the first trial, as well as the broadcast of a highly prejudicial documentary during the same period.
The documentary, entitled Red under the Bed, contained material that was contributed to by a covert agency within the Foreign Office known as the Information Research Department.
The pickets along with the campaign, refused to accept CCRC’s decision and commenced court proceedings, which were funded by Unite.
Two hours into the case the CCRC conceded and said it would reconsider its decision not to send the convictions to the Court of Appeal.
Commenting on the reversal, Shrewsbury 24 Campaign chair, Harry Chadwick, said he was “particularly proud of the magnificent support that we have had from my union, Unite”.
Chadwick added, “The fight goes on until we achieve justice for the pickets.”
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said it was “brilliant news”.
“It is fitting that the news should come on Workers’ Day, bringing the Shrewsbury 24 one step closer to the justice they deserve,” said Beckett.
“Unite is proud to be a long term supporter of the campaign and to have financially supported the legal action. We will continue to stand with those impacted by this miscarriage of justice every step of the way.”
Beckett added, “The right to organise, take industrial action or peacefully protest must never be taken for granted because those who wish to stop working people being able to defend themselves will always seek ways to do so.
“That’s why the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign’s relentless fight to right an historic wrong is also a fight for the future – sending a warning to those who would unjustly target trade unionists that, regardless of how long it takes, their actions will be exposed and accounted for and providing vital insight on how to prevent such injustices from happening again.
“Solidarity from Unite to the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign.”
Pic from 1973 London demo