Actor and former union activist Ricky Tomlinson joined fellow campaigners as lawyers lodged formal appeal papers with the Criminal Cases Review Commission

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Actor and former plasterer Ricky Tomlinson joined fellow construction industry campaigners when lawyers lodged formal appeal papers with the Criminal Cases Review Commission in Birmingham.

They are seeking to overturn his conviction and that of Des Warren for conspiracy and affray during the 1972 building workers strike.

Ricky Tomlinson told UnionNews: “We just want our names cleared, because this was a political trial and we were sentenced politically.

“We’ve got a document from the Attorney General to the then Home Secretary saying that there was in no way enough evidence to convict us.”

The appeal to the CCRB alleges an ‘abuse of process’ in bringing the trail against the Shrewsbury pickets.

The campaign’s lawyer, Eileen Turnbull told UnionNews: “It was the state’s decision, or someone very central in government, to proceed with this case.

“They had little or no evidence, yet they decided to prosecute. There was no case to answer and these cases were brought by the government, not by or through the legal process.”

Documents for the appeal (pictured) were compiled from months of research into government records held in the official archives at Kew in London.

Eileen Turnbull believes they show the decision to prosecute the strikers was made sometime between late January and mid-February 1973, in defiance of advice from counsel for the Crown and the Attorney General that there was insufficient evidence against Rikki Tomlinson or Des Warren.

This was some six months after the incidents for which the strikers were convicted, despite there being no charges made by police officers on the scene against any of the men at the time and despite there having been numerous, more violent examples of industrial unrest during the strike elsewhere in the country. No action was taken in those cases.

Campaigners believe  a new strike would have been called if any prosecutions were initiated at the time in more strongly-unionised areas, such as Yorkshire.

Eileen Turnbull is now asking the Commission to use its powers to demand that the government releases key documents which have so far been withheld, and which she believes are central to their appeal.

The first national building workers strike began in June 1972.

The strikers were calling for a 35-hour week, a national minimum wage and an end to the system of cash-in-hand payments known as ‘The Lump’

Lawyers have also asked that the CCRC make it a priority to process the appeal quickly given the age of those involved.

The former trade union activist, turned actor says his whole life and that of his family has been scarred by his imprisonment, almost 40 years ago.

“Even now, people still point at my granddaughters and say – ‘that Ricky Tomlinson, he was convicted for violent picketing’.

“I’m nearly 73 years old. I’ve got arthritis, I’ve had a 4-way bypass. I’d like to clear my name before I pass on.”

UnionNews will post a film report on today’s appeal shortly.


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