Exclusive: Nick Clegg calls for inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave

Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg
Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg
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NIck CLEGG backs calls for a public inquiry into Battle of Orgreave during the 1980s miners’ strike.

The former Deputy Prime Minister has said the time is right to investigate the 1984 violent clash between police and miners in South Yorkshire that led to the arrests of 93 pickets.

Backing calls from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign he said: “With each passing day there are more questions to be asked. The more people are peeling back the events and the personalities involved, the more I think we will have to revisit the events surrounding Orgreave.

“Given that the South Yorkshire Police are in obviously at a real cross-roads after Hillsborough with the chief constable standing down and the new chief constable coming in, you could argue that it is almost better to get all this stuff looked at now, rather than hanging over the new chief constable and the force as it tries to rebuild and re-establish its credibility.”

Home Secretary Theresa May is currently reviewing the case put foward by campaigners, led by victims’ families and backed by Leeds-born barrister Henrietta Hill QC and Michael Mansfield QC.

The Prime Minister told the Yorkshire Post a week ago that the Government was listening and reviewing the evidence put before them.

However Mr Clegg, former Lib Dem leader and Sheffield Hallam MP said action must be taken quickly to restore the reputation of South Yorkshire Police.

He said: “I want to see South Yorkshire Police force serve my constituents properly. We need police officers who have good morale on the streets of Sheffield.

“It’s quite difficult to do that if you constantly have this stuff hanging over you for the alleged actions of officers who have long retired.

“I am more and more convinced that it is not right to shut this down.”

During his time in Coalition Government he said Orgreave did not cross his path, but that with the groundswell of support to look again at the incident and the recent verdict of the Hillsborough inquests, it is now time to re-investigate.

In the Battle of Orgreave 95 miners were arrested at the Orgreave coking plant, near Rotherham, on June 18, 1984, after clashes with police which left 50 people injured.

When the cases came to court, all were abandoned after it became clear that evidence provided by police was unreliable. South Yorkshire Police paid £425,000 in compensation to 39 pickets in out-of-court settlements.

In June 2015 the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it would “not be in the public interest” for it to launch a full investigation into claims police used excessive force against miners, had their statements manipulated and gave false evidence in court to justify spurious criminal charges.

David Cameron said he will await the judgement of Theresa May on whether there is a case for an inquest.