24 January 2014
A vote in the House of Commons led to 120 MPs balloting to see the public release of documents relating to the imprisonment of trade unionists under conspiracy charges in the 1970s. Just three politicians voted to keep the information hidden.
Earlier this month, Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary told members of the Shrewsbury24 Campaign – which handed in a petition of over 100,000 signatures for the publication of the information – that the documents regarding the dubious imprisonment of six picketers after a building strike over 40 years ago would be withheld for another 10 years.
However, earlier this week, MPs voted overwhelmingly to release the papers that related to the 1972 strike.
At first it was going to be withheld under Section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act, as Grayling claimed the issue could affect national security.
However,one of the picketers Ricky Tomlinson voiced exactly the question we were all asking ourselves when he said: “We were building workers trying to get decent wages and working conditions. What’s that got to do with ‘national security’?
“We were convicted for conspiracy in 1972. We knew we were innocent. And now the government continue to throw a security blanket over what really happened … and the role of the security forces. We believe the prosecutions were directed by the government.”
In 1972, 24 men who went on strike were convicted and accused of ‘violent picketing and intimidating workers in Shropshire’ resulting in six of them being incarcerated. The men are widely believed to have been victims of a miscarriage of justice and ever since their imprisonment, campaigners have been pressuring the government to release the papers regarding the incident to prove that the convictions were unlawful.
The Shrewsbury24 were arrested five months after the strike took place and were charged under the 1875 conspiracy act.
The Shrewsbury24 are hoping to receive the papers in the coming weeks. Eileen Turnball, from the Shrewsbury 24 campaign group, told the BBC, “This case is 41 years old. To have a vote of such magnitude in the House, it’s absolutely right.
All we are asking for is to release the documents… not asking to debate the issue, it has taken us 40 years for them to vote.”
Meanwhile, Ricky Tomlinson gave an account of his horrifying experience, explaining why it is so important to release the papers
“We got to the police station in Shrewsbury, we were fingerprinted, photographed, it was surreal, absolutely surreal and to find out I had 21 charges against me for doing everything bar robbing the crown jewels – it was ludicrous.
“We have got to have our names cleared… we have got to have everything squashed.
“I would like to see some of those people responsible, I would like to see them named and shamed because it was appalling.”
The IER hopes that the papers will be released as soon as possible as a false imprisonment is a clear violation of trade union rights and the Shrewsbury case affected many innocent lives. The government’s secrecy surrounding the documents only supports the case that the Shrewsbury 24 were victims of injustice. The truth needs to come out.