The new chief constable of South Yorkshire Police has said he would welcome a new independent investigation into the 1984 Battle of Orgreave after links emerged between the scandal and the Hillsborough disaster five years later.
Home Secretary Theresa May has been coming under increasing pressure to launch a new inquiry into the events at Orgreave, which saw 95 miners arrested at the Orgreave coking plant, near Rotherham, 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 later paid £425,000 in compensation to 39 pickets in out-of-court settlements.
The Hillsborough Inquests have brought into sharp focus the need to understand and confront the past and give people the opportunity to explore the circumstances of such significant events.Dave Jones, interim chief constable at South Yorkshire Police
Dave Jones, who took over interim chief constable at South Yorkshire Police this week after his predecessor David Crompton was suspended in the aftermath of the Hillsborough inquests verdict, today issued a statement saying he would welcome “an appropriate independent assessment” of the events of 1984.
He said: “The Hillsborough Inquests have brought into sharp focus the need to understand and confront the past and give people the opportunity to explore the circumstances of such significant events.
“I would therefore welcome an appropriate independent assessment of Orgreave accepting that the way in which this is delivered is a matter for the Home Secretary.”
Last June, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it would “not be in the public interest” 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.
After carrying out a two-year scoping review, the watchdog said the “passage of time” meant allegations of assault and misconduct by police could not now be pursued, and that some were subject to complaints and civil proceedings at the time.
Earlier this week, The Yorkshire Post revealed redacted sections of the report which revealed that the same senior officers and solicitor were involved both in the aftermath of Orgreave and Britain’s worst sporting disaster in 1989.
The previously censored sections of the dossier suggested that these officials became aware South Yorkshire Police officers had perjured themselves at the miners’ trial in 1984, but kept this fact secret.
Another officer interviewed about the alleged Hillsborough cover-up by South Yorkshire Police claimed that some of his colleagues were told by unspecified officers not to write anything in their notebooks both at the time of Orgreave and then instructed to do the same in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster.
The disclosures, which can be revealed now that the jury has returned its verdicts on the unlawful killing of 96 Liverpool football fans, will strengthen the claims of campaigners that the same malpractice and police tactics used to blame fans after Britain’s worst sporting disaster were first used five years earlier in relation to Orgreave.
As a result, it is alleged, the crisis-hit police force was able to repeat the same tactics in the aftermath to deflect attention from themselves in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.
Mrs May has been considering an application by campaigners to launch a new inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave for several months but has yet to indicate whether any further action will be taken.
Campaigners have been calling for either a full public inquiry, where witnesses can be called, or something similar to the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which reported back in 2012.