The miscarriage of justice watchdog has referred to the Court of Appeal the convictions of a further six members of a group of construction workers claiming to have been wrongly jailed following an industrial dispute in the 1970s including the actor Ricky Tomlinson. As reported on the Justice Gap, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) rejected the application on behalf of the men known as the ‘Shrewsbury 24’ but was forced to change its mind as a result of being challenged through the courts. It referred eight cases in March.
The six additional cases are Ricky Tomlinson and George Arthur Murray as well as Alfred James, Samuel Roy Warburton, Graham Roberts and John Kenneth Seaburg. The last four applicants have died.
- You can read about the Shrewsbury 24 case here and here – and an interview with Ricky Tomlinson by Nick Bano here.
Prior to the CCRC rejecting the case, it had spent five years investigating it. In March the commission’s chairman Helen Pitcher defended the original review as ‘detailed and thorough’. However she added: ‘Some will think this has not been the Commission’s finest hour, but it does at least show that we are an organisation that can revisit a decision impartially and where necessary change its mind.’
When the CCRC rejected the case in October 2017, the campaign secretary Eileen Turnbull told the Justice Gap that the case should have been referred back to the Court of Appeal ‘at least three years ago’. ‘The CCRC has dragged its feet for more than five years and then failed to apply the relevant law to the fresh evidence that we provided.’
The men had been charged under arcane legislation (Conspiracy Act 1875) for offences relating to intimidation and damage to property for picketing during the first nationwide industrial action by the building trade.
Their application to the CCRC in 2012 was based a number of grounds, including recently discovered evidence that original witness statements had been destroyed and that this fact had not been disclosed to the defence counsel. They also argued that the broadcast of an ITV documentary (‘The red under the bed’) during the original trial, content was contributed by a covert agency within the Foreign Office known as the Information Research Department, was highly prejudicial.
Ricky Tomlinson and George Arthur Murray were not part of the judicial review and, consequently, has not been referred. In his 2016 interview with Nick Bano, he said: ‘The judge was a gobshite. He didn’t have a clue…. I’ve got no faith in the judicial system whatsoever. It’s more important to me that the public finds out what has been done to us. It’s an uphill struggle but we won’t give in.’