CCRC refer convictions of the Shrewsbury 24 pickets to the Court of Appeal
On 4 March 2020, the Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the convictions of eight of the Shrewsbury 24 to the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal to consider the lawfulness of their convictions in 1973/4. The eight pickets whose convictions were referred were Dennis Warren (deceased), John McKinsie Jones, Kenneth O’Shea (deceased), John Clee, William Pierce, Terence Renshaw, Patrick Kevin Butcher and Bernard Williams.
Members of the Shrewsbury 24, supported by the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign, had asked the CCRC to refer their 1973/74 convictions to the Court of Appeal on the basis of a number of grounds, including: (i) recently discovered evidence that original witness statements had been destroyed and that this fact had not been disclosed to the defence counsel; and (ii) the broadcast of a highly prejudicial documentary during the first trial, the content of which was contributed to by a covert agency within the Foreign Office known as the Information Research Department. The original application was made in 2012 and the CCRC originally refused to make that referral in 2017.
Following that first refusal, four of those applicants pursued a judicial review on behalf of the wider group. Permission to proceed to a full hearing was originally refused on the papers, but was subsequently granted by Mr Justice Jay in November 2018. The CCRC continued to defend the proceedings until the day of the hearing before Lord Justice Flaux and Mrs Justice Carr DBE; unusually conceding part way through the submissions of Danny Friedman QC that the CCRC would withdraw its decisions and reconsider them.
The CCRC has now confirmed it will refer those convictions to the Court of Appeal in respect of the two grounds identified above “because it now considers that the new evidence and argument outlined above create a real possibility the Court of Appeal will quash the convictions.”
In respect of the process of the CCRC, the CCRC Chair has stated :
“Our review of these cases was detailed and thorough but we reached a view in 2017 that in spite of our considerable efforts we did not have grounds to refer them to the Court of Appeal.
When it became clear that the Administrative Court took a different view on two specific points we decided to revisit our decision.
“We looked long and hard again at the specific issues involved. It was by no means a foregone conclusion that we would change our original decision, but in the end we have decided there is now enough to refer these cases for appeal.
“These are complex matters of judgment and not precise calculations. Some will think this has not been the Commission’s finest hour, but it does at least show that we are an organisation that can revisit a decision impartially and where necessary change its mind.
“It will now be for the Court of Appeal to hear the appeals and decide whether or not to quash these convictions.”
Terry Renshaw, speaking on behalf of the pickets, said,
We are absolutely delighted with the decision and look forward to our day in court to show that we were victims of a miscarriage of justice. Without the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign we would not be where we are today. We owe a great debt of thanks to them for the tireless work that they have carried out.
Jamie Potter, Partner in the Public Law and Human Rights Department at Bindmans LLP and lead solicitor for the pickets supported by the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign, said:
The decision of the CCRC to refer the convictions of the Shrewsbury 24 is welcome. It can only be hoped that this matter will now be resolved quickly with justice being achieved for the Shrewsbury 24 pickets. It has been a long and arduous battle for the pickets and the Campaign Committee that has supported them: it could never have reached this stage without the pain-staking research of the Campaign’s Researcher and Secretary Eileen Turnbull. She has spent over ten years visiting every conceivable library and archive in the UK to uncover the key evidence more than four decades after the relevant events took place.
The relevant pickets have been represented by Danny Friedman QC (Matrix Chambers), Ben Newton (Doughty Street Chambers) and former Bindmans Associate Solicitor Rhona Friedman (now at Commons Legal) at various points during the course of the application to the CCRC and the judicial review proceedings.