The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred for appeal the convictions of eight members of the Shrewsbury 24.
They are John McKinsie Jones, John Malcolm Clee, William Michael Pierce, Terence Renshaw, Patrick Kevin Butcher, and Bernard Williams, and also Kenneth Desmond Francis O’Shea and Dennis Michael Warren both of whom are deceased.
All eight men were members of a group of 24 construction workers convicted in a series of three trials held in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Together they became known as the Shrewsbury 24.
The men were convicted of a range of offences such as unlawful assembly, conspiracy to intimidate, affray, and threatening behaviour. All but one pleaded not guilty and all were convicted. The sentences imposed varied from three years’ imprisonment to three month’s imprisonment suspended for two years.
In 2012, the CCRC received applications from ten members of the Shrewsbury 24 including the eight men whose convictions have now been referred for appeal.
After a lengthy and very extensive investigation the CCRC decided in October 2017 that it could not refer those convictions for appeal.
Eight of the ten CCRC applicants launched Judicial Review proceedings through their legal representative at Bindmans LLP against the CCRC’s decision not to refer their cases.
Permission for the Judicial Review was given on 9th November 2018 and the full hearing took place on 30th April 2019. Part way though those proceedings the CCRC agreed that it would revisit its decision not to refer the eight cases for appeal based on two specific matters that were at issue in the Judicial Review.
Those matters were:
i) new evidence consisting of a note dated 17 September 1973 which revealed that some original statements had been destroyed. Neither this note, nor the fact that statements were destroyed, was disclosed to the defence at the time of the trial or at any time thereafter.
ii) new legal argument relating to a television documentary, “The red under the bed ”, which was broadcast during the 1972 trial, and analysis, applying modern standards of fairness, of the way in which the airing of the documentary was handled by the trial judge.
The CCRC has now reconsidered its initial decision not to refer these eight convictions in light of the apparent attitude of the Administrative Court and in light of submissions from Bindmans LLP on those matters.
The CCRC has decided to refer the eight cases for the Court of Appeal because it now considers that the new evidence and argument outlined above create a real possibility the Court of Appeal will quash the convictions.
Two men whose applications were turned down in 2017 by the CCRC alongside the eight cases now referred have not been referred for appeal because they were not part of the Judicial Review discussed above and their cases were not therefore reopened. They therefore do not currently have applications with the CCRC. Those men were Eric “Ricky” Tomlinson and George Arthur Murray.
The CCRC has now contacted Mr Tomlinson and Mr Murray to advise them that it should be a relatively simple matter to refer their cases on the basis set out above.
The CCRC would also be interested in hearing from any other members of the Shrewsbury 24.
CCRC Chairman Helen Pitcher said:
“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.”
The Commission will not be offering interviews in relation to this referral.
This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication at the CCRC. He can be reached on 07947 355231 or by e-mail at email@example.com
Notes for editors
- The Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.
- There are currently nine Commissioners who bring to the Commission considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.
- The Commission usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.
- The Commission considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal. Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.
- If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.
- More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at www.ccrc.gov.uk The Commission can be found on Twitter using @ccrcupdate