by Terry Renshaw: convicted picket and founder member of the Shrewsbury 24 campaign
I will never forget Tuesday 23 March 2021. It was the day that the Court of Appeal quashed all the convictions of the North Wales building workers, we are known as the Shrewsbury pickets. We had been prosecuted at Shrewsbury Crown Court in 1973/4 for picketing offences during the first national building worker’s strike.
Words cannot express the feelings we are experiencing, our families are overjoyed, we are not ashamed to say that we are all tearful and relieved, that at last our names are cleared of all the criminal charges which were laid against us in 1973.
We always maintained we were innocent. These convictions remained unfinished business for many trade unionists. The premature death in 2004 of Des Warren became the catalyst for us as a group of trade unionists in Liverpool and North Wales to revisit what happened to the pickets. In 2006 we launched the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign, to attempt to overturn this historic miscarriage of justice. It has taken us15 years to achieve that goal
In 1973/4 six pickets had been jailed and sixteen others had received suspended prison sentences at three trials. The first, involving six pickets, began in October 1973 and lasted twelve weeks. Three pickets were found guilty and imprisoned; the leading picket, Des Warren, received the longest sentence, of three years. Two further trials followed, which saw three other pickets jailed. Sixteen of the pickets were given suspended prison sentences and just two were acquitted.
The campaign submitted applications on behalf of the pickets to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in 2012 when we presented fresh evidence obtained by our researcher Eileen Turnbull. Despite the strength of our case the CCRC turned us down in October 2017. At this stage two of the pickets withdrew from the fight.
Eight of the original ten pickets decided to go on, we never gave up. Our decision was vindicated when the CCRC conceded our case at the hearing in Court in Birmingham on 30 April 2019, and on 4 March 2020 they referred our case to the Court of Appeal (CoA).
I attended the CoA on 3 and 4 February and felt proud of being part of the Shrewsbury 24 campaign which never gave up in attempting to overturn a miscarriage of justice. I also felt proud to be one of the eight pickets who included Des Warren, John McKinsie Jones, Malcolm Clee, Michael Pierce, Ken O’Shea, Bernard Williams and Kevin Butcher who decided to go with the case when everything was stacked against us.
Winning takes patience and perseverance as well as unity and solidarity. Thank you to everyone who has supported us, the 21 national unions, the TUC, hundreds of union and Labour Party branches, trades councils and individuals. Our success has been hailed as a boost by other justice campaigners including Orgreave and Grenfell.