England

Royle Family star Ricky Tomlinson in fresh bid to clear name

Ricky Tomlinson in Birmingham on Tuesday
Image caption Ricky Tomlinson said he was confident of finally getting justice

A campaign group has gone to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to help clear the names of TV actor Ricky Tomlinson and 23 others of picketing offences.

The Royle Family star was among building workers put on trial in Shrewsbury in 1973 after being charged under the 1875 Conspiracy Act.

He served 16 months of a two-year jail sentence after being convicted.

Mr Tomlinson is part of a group leading the Shrewsbury Pickets Campaign.

He said: "It's affecting our lives even now. I had trouble getting to America... It took me nine months to get a passport.

"Why are we still appealing after 40 years? We're appealing because we're innocent.

"I am 73 in September and I would like to have my name cleared before I die.

"It has caused me a lot of pain and upset over the years but I am confident we will finally get justice."

'Miscarriage of justice'

The CCRC is an independent public body responsible for investigating suspected miscarriages of criminal justice.

It assesses whether convictions or sentences should be referred to a court of appeal.

The campaign's submission argues that the original case against the workers was political and an abuse of power by the Conservative government of the day.

The Conservative Party has not commented.

The 24 workers were put on trial a year after the 1972 building strike ended.

Image caption A group gathered outside a Department for Communities and Local Government building

Terry Renshaw, 64, from Bagillt, Flintshire, Wales, who said he was given a four-month suspended sentence, said: "I feel humbled in some way at the way that the campaign's been brought about by people who do not even know us."

The pickets' solicitor, Rhona Friedman, said the hard work of campaigners and pickets and the support of friends and families "must surely expose some of the hidden truths in this case".

She said: "We believe that material currently being held by various bodies such as the Cabinet Office for 'security reasons' will help to exonerate these men.

"The public interest in overturning a miscarriage of justice surely outweighs potential government and civil service embarrassment over events of almost 40 years ago."

A 79-year-old man given a four-month suspended sentence and a son of a picket who has died were also among about 20 campaigners who submitted the bid to the CCRC in Birmingham, Mr Renshaw said.

Another group of people, containing members of unions including building workers union UCATT, displayed a banner saying "Justice for the Shrewsbury Pickets" outside the building in St Philips Place.

Mr Renshaw said it could be anything from two months to several years before they find out whether the CCRC refers to the court of appeal.

A CCRC spokesman said: "The application arrived today and we will be treating it the same as we would any other application of this kind."

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