The ‘Shrewsbury 24’ pickets who were convicted and jailed in the 1970s for taking part in the only national builders’ strike – have all convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal.
The workers and their families have campaigned for almost half a century against the state persecution of workers for organising collective action. But decision has come too late for six members who have died.
The most famous of the jailed pickets, actor Ricky Tomlinson, always claimed the trial was political.
He said this week: “The Conservative government wanted the trial, wanted the convictions and wanted to put not just me and his friend Dessie on trial but the whole trade union movement. We were used and punished as a warning – they wee telling the working class: “Don’t step out of line!”
The Appeal judges quashed the convictions as “unsafe” after a researcher discovered that the police had destroyed all the original statements.
But the judges dismissed the claim that an Anglia TV drama, The Red Under the Bed – about communist influence behind the strike and written by right-wing ex-Labour MP and Daily Mirror columnist Woodrow Wyatt with the help of MI5 and broadcast the night the jury reached its decision, would not have had an undue influence.
The convicted men were given jail sentences of two and three years. After serving the sentences they were all blacklisted and never worked in the trade again.
Former Countdown chair Richard Whitely and Wyatt also played a prominent part in a follow up debate. Ricky Tomlinson has always claimed that Wyatt and Whitely were members of the security services.
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