The aim of the campaign was to overturn the convictions of the pickets at Shrewsbury Crown Court in 1973 and 1974. In law this could only be done by the Court of Appeal. It would only consider an appeal against the convictions of the pickets if the case was referred to the appeal court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). If the CCRC concluded that there was a “real possibility” that the Court of Appeal would quash a conviction they would refer the case to the appeal court.
Our case was quite unique compared with the majority of cases that the CCRC deals with. Our research over several years found that there was clear evidence of political interference by the Conservative Government in 1972-74, from the initial decision to arrest the pickets through to the trials and convictions at Shrewsbury. We asked the CCRC to use its powers to obtain Cabinet minutes, memos, letters and other documents for this period relating to the trials, which we believed would confirm this abuse of process of the criminal justice system by the government.
An application was submitted to the CCRC by ten of the convicted pickets on Tuesday 3 April 2012. Over the following four years further fresh evidence was submitted to the CCRC, as described by the Campaign’s researcher, Eileen Turnbull:
In 2008, as a campaign committee member, I was asked to carry out research into the background of the case and obtain fresh evidence that would support the application to the CCRC on behalf of the convicted pickets. My remit was to obtain evidence that would satisfy the terms of reference of the CCRC. I examined the background to the dispute, the activities during the strike including the picketing at Shrewsbury on 6 September 1972, the employers’ campaign to have strikers prosecuted, the arrests and charges, the trials, conviction and appeals. I agreed to do this on a voluntary basis.
It was quite a daunting task and one I quickly realised was going to be an uphill struggle. The biggest problem had been the passage of time. The events surrounding the national building workers’ dispute were almost 40 years old when I began my quest. Contacting people and obtaining documents proved difficult. Tracking down sources of original evidence was very challenging, taking me all over the country.
Whilst carrying out this research I encountered some of the nicest, honest and helpful people, who willingly provided me with information and documents. Sadly, I also came across downright obstruction and mischief from individuals and organisations. They either provided me with misleading information or openly refused to cooperate.
I was humbled by the pickets’ recollections of this horrific time that was to have such a devastating effect on them for the rest of their lives. Many of them had not seen each other since the trials in the early 1970s. It was remarkable to hear from them that most of the people charged with conspiracy hardly knew each other at the time of the dispute. During the strike they picketed in a number of areas and it was just by coincidence that they were together on 6 September 1972.
I worked closely with the lawyers whom we instructed to progress the case, the noted human rights firm, Bindmans. We submitted a further three tranches of evidence to the CCRC but did not receive a decision until 2016. Despite sending a detailed response to the CCRC it upheld its initial decision and on 30 October 2017 issued a Final Statement of Reasons turning down the pickets’ application.