Piers Marquis, Benjamin Newton and Annabel Timan act as Shrewsbury 24 Pickets Case comes back before the Court of Appeal after 47 years

British actor Ricky Tomlinson, appeals his 1973 conviction for picketing during the National Building Strikes of 1972. He was one of the pickets known as the Shrewsbury 24. Court told that original eyewitness statements were destroyed and that branches of government, including M15, were involved in the production of a documentary that impacted on the criminal proceedings.

Fourteen of the Shrewsbury 24 have finally had their appeals heard, 47 years after conviction.  The appeal involved new material discovered in the National Archives by The Shrewsbury 24 Campaign’s researcher Dr Eileen Turnbull.   The appellants say that these documents demonstrate original eyewitness statements were destroyed. De-classified documents that Dr Turnbull obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also reveal that government agencies, including MI5, had a significant role in the production of a documentary, “Red under the Bed” which was highly critical of the trade union movement and the building strikes and was broadcast during the course of the trial.

The documentary featured a discredited journalist, Simon Regan, whom government agencies had brought to the attention of the programme makers. Dr Turnbull also discovered documents that showed that Regan had been investigated by both Northamptonshire and Birmingham City Police in 1972 and found to have fabricated his experiences with “the flying pickets” but these facts were not disclosed at the original trial.

The convictions led to the appellants being blacklisted in the building industry and many were unable to gain employment after they had served their prison sentences. Mr Tomlinson is calling for a public inquiry into the role of state agencies in this case and the issue of blacklisting in general.

Benjamin Newton, led by Danny Friedman QC at Matrix Chambers and instructed by Kate Goold and Jamie Potter at Bindmans LLP, act for 12 of the appellants including the lead defendant Des Warren (now deceased).

Piers Marquis and Annabel Timan act for Ricky Tomlinson and Arthur Murray, instructed by Paul Heron of Public Interest Law Centre assisted by Richard Gowthorpe of North Kensington Law Centre.

Media coverage: The Guardian, BBC, Union News.