The fight for redress for the 24 pickets who were prosecuted five months after the first national building workers strike in 1972 has hit a ridiculous new setback.
I was one of those building workers, and was given a two year prison sentence,for my part in the dispute. I, and the others who were prosecuted, believe that government files about our case are still being held secret as they’ll show there was senior government interference involved in getting charges against us that should never have been brought.
In the latest development, the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has told the campaign that we’re going to have to wait longer to see the crucial evidence that we need – A lot longer. Apparently his predecessor Kenneth Clark gave approval back in December for the records of the cases against us to stay secret, under the exemptions in section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act.
The information covering the Shrewsbury Trials won’t now be released to the public until at least 31st December 2021. This means that in the interest of ‘national security’ they’re going to continue to withhold crucial documents. The next review of the situation will now take place a ludicrous 50 years after we were prosecuted.
But we simply don’t have that time to wait. I reckon that given our ages, which stretch from 65 to 85, the government are just playing a cynical waiting game. They’re banking on us all dying off, just so they aren’t embarrassed by the documents that we believe are going to prove we were victims of a serious miscarriage of justice.
If we’re right, I can see why they’d want to hush it up. But we were no danger to ‘national security’ back in 1972, and we sure as anything aren’t 40 years on.
I’ve sponsored an e-petition, with the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign, calling on the government to release the documents now, while we are still alive to see the reasons for what happened to us back in 1972. Getting the issue out in Parliament could be crucial to letting the light of day into the government archives.