Ricky Tomlinson

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Person.png Ricky Tomlinson   AmazonRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(author, actor, activist)
Tomlinson Rotheram.jpg
Ricky Tomlinson with Steve Rotheram MP for Liverpool (Walton)
BornEric Tomlinson
26 September 1939
Bispham, Blackpool, Lancashire, England
SpouseMarlene Tomlinson
Member ofShrewsbury 24

Ricky Tomlinson peacefully picketed construction sites during the 1972 building workers strike, was fitted up by Tory Home Secretary Robert Carr, charged under the 1895 Conspiracy Act, tried, convicted and jailed for 16 months.[1] Four decades later, the Shrewsbury 24 were demanding secret government papers be released into the public domain so that their criminal conviction can be overturned.[2]

On 26 May 2020, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the public body that scrutinises alleged miscarriages of justice, announced it had asked the Court of Appeal to review the cases of Tomlinson and others.[3] On 23 March 2021, the Court of Appeal overturned their convictions by allowing the 14 appellants' appeals on the ground that original witness statements had been destroyed. Lord Justice Fulford said:

"If the destruction of the handwritten statements had been revealed to the appellants at the time of the trial, this issue could have been comprehensively investigated with the witnesses when they gave evidence, and the judge would have been able to give appropriate directions.

"We have no doubt that if that had happened, the trial process would have ensured fairness to the accused. Self-evidently, that is not what occurred."

The judge added: "By the standards of today, what occurred was unfair to the extent that the verdicts cannot be upheld."[4]

Ricky Tomlinson, said:

"Whilst it is only right that these convictions are overturned, it is a sorry day for British justice.

"The reality is we should never have been standing in the dock!

"We were brought to trial at the apparent behest of the building industry bosses, the Conservative government and ably supported by the secret state.

"This was a political trial not just of me, and the Shrewsbury pickets - but was a trial of the trade union movement."[5]

Speaking to Labour Grassroots (1:03:09)

Campaign statement

Ricky Tomlinson said:

“I speak not just for myself but also for all the pickets who were charged. Many of them never worked again due to the blacklist, in particular Des Warren who died in 2004. The prison sentences and fines we received for picketing completely wrecked our lives. The Official Shrewsbury 24 Campaign Committee have carried out extensive research into this miscarriage of justice and are confident that our application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission has a good chance of being considered favourably and referred to the Court of Appeal, where we hope the convictions will be quashed. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for all their efforts. Please support our campaign.”[6]

Debate in Westminster

On 9 December 2015, Steve Rotheram MP Parliamentary Private Secretary to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, sponsored a debate in Westminster Hall concerning the lack of transparency regarding the Conservative government. He emphasised the age of the pickets and the need for no further delay in releasing the papers, and allow the pickets to receive the justice they deserve.[7] Andy Burnham, Shadow Home Secretary, threatened to oppose Theresa May's plans to extend spying powers under the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill (which aims to overhaul the laws governing how the state, police and spies can gather private communications or other forms of data to combat crime, "terrorism" and other threats to national security) unless it releases papers about the "politically motivated show trial" of the Shrewsbury 24. Burnham alleged that the men were victims of a propaganda war, and there was undue political influence "at the very top of government" over the decision to prosecute them. He said:

"What possible justification can there be, 43 years on, for information about it to be withheld on national security grounds? The failure to disclose has less to do with national security and much more to do with the potential for political embarrassment."[8]

Replying to the debate, Minister of State for Policing and Justice Mike Penning said files relating to the investigation and conviction of the Shrewsbury 24 could not be released on the grounds of national security.[9]

Workers' Blacklist

In August 2016, The Canary reported that Ricky Tomlinson had brandished on Channel 4 News a copy of the Economic League‘s North West blacklist, which blacklisted thousands of workers (including him) from industry jobs over several decades. As well as revealing an excerpt from that blacklist, it observed that "only a handful of people possess copies of the entire Economic League’s North West blacklist."[10]