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CCRC’s change of heart over Shrewsbury 24

(Posted on 05/03/20)

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Eight years after their submissions to the the Criminal Cases Review Commission and nearly fifty years after their convictions, the CCRC has referred eight members of the Shrewsbury 24 back to the Court of Appeal.

The twenty-four men, all construction workers, were convicted of a range of offences including unlawful assembly, conspiracy to intimidate, affray, and threatening behaviour in the early 1970s, receiving sentences of up to three years’ imprisonment.

The group included the actor Ricky Tomlinson, star of the BBC series ‘The Royle Family’, who has consistently maintained these were wrongful convicitions.

Ten of the men applied to the CCRC in 2012 but, after five years’ deliberations under the stewardship of former chair Richard Foster, the CCRC declined to refer their cases. However, following Judicial Review proceedings last year brought by Bindmans LLP, the CCRC, under new chair Helen Pitcher, decided to reconsider and have now referred eight of the cases on.

The eight cases referred are those of John McKinsie Jones, John Malcolm Clee, William Michael Pierce, Terence Renshaw, Patrick Kevin Butcher, and Bernard Williams, Kenneth Desmond Francis O’Shea (deceased) and Dennis Michael Warren (deceased).

George Arthur Murray and Eric ‘Ricky’ Tomlinson, have not made submissions but the CCRC has urged them to do so: “If they contact the commission we will aim to send their cases for appeal without delay so they can join the appeal proceedings resulting from the referral.”

Helen Pitcher explained the CCRC’s turnaround: “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.”