12 Jun 2015

Orgreave: miners’ group calls for public inquiry

Campaigners are demanding a Hillsborough-style public inquiry into Orgreave after the police watchdog said it it would not investigate alleged misconduct by officers.

(How Channel 4 News reported the Orgreave conflict on 1 June 1984)

South Yorkshire Police had referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over events at Orgreave coking plant in Rotherham during the miners’ strike in 1984. It has been accused of using excessive force against picketing miners and gave false evidence in court.

The so-called “Battle of Orgreave” at a coking plant in south Yorkshire was one of the pivotal events of the 1984-85 miners’ strike during Margaret Thatcher’s second government.

Mark Metcalf, spokesman for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, said: “The IPPC report recognises the limitations of what the organisation can do and that only a Hillsborough-style public inquiry can eventually get to the truth.”

‘Political pressure’

Mr Metcalf said a public inquiry would “inevitability” lead to a “paper trail” which suggested police actions in Orgreave were “influenced by political pressure from within the highest ranks of the government of the day”.

After a two-year analysis of thousands of pages of documents related to the case, the IPCC said it had decided not to launch an investigation. IPCC Deputy Chair Sarah Green said: “Because the miners arrested at Orgreave were acquitted or no evidence offered, there are no miscarriages of justice due to alleged police failures for the IPCC to investigate.

“Allegations of offences amounting to minor assaults could not be prosecuted due to the passage of time; and as many of the police officers involved in events at Orgreave are retired, no disciplinary action could be pursued.”

The IPCC said it had not found any “direct evidence” that senior officers within South Yorkshire Police conspired to instruct colleagues to commit perjury.

But in its redacted report, the watchdog said it had found “significant new evidence” of the force’s “apparent desire to settle claims to avoid disclosing evidence that officers may have committed perjury”.

‘Got away with murder’

Former miner Kevin Horne, 64, who was arrested for obstruction at Orgreave but never charged, said: “I’m really disappointed. I think they’ve got away with murder really, because the evidence is all there.They don’t seem to have investigated properly or it’s not in their power to do a proper investigation.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “For too long there have been serious allegations about the way the miners were treated at Orgreave, but we have never had the truth.

“The events at Orgreave were amongst the most troubling of the entire 1984-85 miners’ strike. Those who were there have distressing stories of violence. Those who weren’t saw the TV images of blooded faces, charging horses, of kicks and punches.”

A Home Office spokesman said:”The home secretary will carefully consider the findings of the IPCC’s review and will respond in due course.”

South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton said: “For almost 31 years the actions of the police during the so-called Battle of Orgreave, and its pivotal role in the miners’ strike, have divided opinion and created controversy. Clearly, if any compelling new evidence comes to light regarding police conduct in the future, this is a decision which can be revisited.”