Exclusive: The links between South Yorkshire Police Hillsborough and Orgreave ‘cover-ups’ five years apart

The Battle of Orgreave unfolds in June 1984. New documents have revealed links between the tactics used by police and those employed in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.
The Battle of Orgreave unfolds in June 1984. New documents have revealed links between the tactics used by police and those employed in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.
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Calls for a new inquiry into the 1984 Battle of Orgreave were growing tonight after previously censored documents revealed links between an alleged cover-up carried out by senior South Yorkshire Police officers at the time and the force’s actions five years later at Hillsborough.

Redacted sections of a watchdog’s report into clashes between police and striking miners reveal that the same senior officers and solicitor were involved both in the aftermath of Orgreave and of Britain’s worst sporting disaster in 1989.

Riot police were faced by pickets at the Orgreave coke works in Yorkshire during the miners' strike.

Riot police were faced by pickets at the Orgreave coke works in Yorkshire during the miners' strike.

Sections of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) dossier, seen exclusively by The Yorkshire Post, reveal that these officials became aware South Yorkshire Police officers had perjured themselves at the miners’ trial in 1984, but kept this fact secret.

MPs and campaigners step up demand for answers over police actions at Orgreave and Hillsborough

YP Comment: No secrets, time for openness. Orgreave and Hillsborough link

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 at the time of Orgreave and then instructed to do the same in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster.

It is clear evidence of the rotten culture that has bedevilled this force for too long. Like the people of Liverpool, the mining communities of South Yorkshire now need to be told the truth about their police force and the policing of the miners’ strike.

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham

Hillsborough, Rotherham, Orgreave and the Rhino Whip Affair: Five police scandals in South Yorkshire

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 to deflect attention from themselves in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.

Home Secretary Theresa May is facing calls to launch a new inquiry into the 1984 scandal, 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.

Supporters gathering at an Orgreave rally in 2015.

Supporters gathering at an Orgreave rally in 2015.

Last summer, the 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.

The watchdog’s review found evidence that senior officers became aware of perjury by their colleagues but did not want it to be revealed, something it said raised “doubts about the ethical standards of officers in the highest ranks at South Yorkshire Police at that time”.

But it 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.

Mrs May has been considering an application by campaigners to launch a new inquiry for several months but has yet to indicate whether any further action will be taken.

Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham

In the aftermath of the Battle of Orgreave, a scandal described as a long-running sore for the mining community, South Yorkshire Police paid £425,000 in compensation to 39 pickets in out-of-court settlements.

South Yorkshire Police referred itself to the IPCC in 2012 after a BBC documentary claimed officers may have colluded in writing court statements which saw miners wrongly charged.

Last week, Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham raised the issue of the redacted sections of the IPCC’s Orgreave report in the House of Commons during a debate about the Hillsborough inquests verdict.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “As I’ve always said, we won’t have the truth about Hillsborough until we have the full truth about Orgreave.

“Finally, this report provides proof of what has long been suspected - that underhand tactics were used first against South Yorkshire miners before being deployed to much more deadly effect against Liverpool supporters.

“It is clear evidence of the rotten culture that has bedevilled this force for too long. Like the people of Liverpool, the mining communities of South Yorkshire now need to be told the truth about their police force and the policing of the miners’ strike.

The events at the 1984 Battle of Orgreave have been a long-running sore for the mining community

The events at the 1984 Battle of Orgreave have been a long-running sore for the mining community

“On the back of these revelations, Theresa May must now order a disclosure process not just on Orgreave but on the policing of the miners’ strike.”

Legal papers demanding a public inquiry into police conduct at Orgreave were handed to the Government in December by the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

Dr Katy Shaw, of Leeds Beckett University, a leading authority on the literature of the 1984-5 UK miners’ strike, said a public inquiry should be approved as soon as possible.

She said: “This new information goes to the heart of South Yorkshire Police involvement in both Orgreave and Hillsborough - twin events that shaped not only contemporary UK policing, but the history of the North of England and its working classes.”

“If the alleged South Yorkshire Police malpractices at Orgreave in 1984 had been reviewed and rectified at the time, their policing of Hillsborough might have been very different.”

She added: “Home Secretary Theresa May is currently in possession of a file of evidence calling for a full public inquiry into Orgreave and its links to Hillsborough.

“This inquiry should now be approved as soon as possible to avoid accusations of a further cover up between South Yorkshire Police, the IPCC and central government.

“South Yorkshire Police must finally face up to its hauntingly problematic past and persistent calls to it to be disbanded.

“We should consider this new evidence obtained by The Yorkshire Post and engage in a full and open discussion to ascertain whether South Yorkshire Police is still fit for purpose, can provide a viable culture for is current officers, and is capable of offering effective protection to the public in the twenty-first century.”

An IPCC spokesman said: “The IPCC is currently considering whether an unredacted version of the report into our review of Orgreave matters can now be published. The report published on our website in June 2015 was redacted as a result of legal issues, including some relating to the Hillsborough inquests.

“An unredacted version of our report was shared with the Coroner to the Hillsborough inquests prior to publication. The inquests have now concluded and we are now considering whether the legal issues that prompted the report being redacted still remain.

“One key consideration is that the IPCC and Operation Resolve are conducting criminal investigations into the events at Hillsborough and its aftermath. As a result we must now carefully consider whether we can publish an unredacted version of the report at this stage without compromising the integrity of the ongoing criminal investigations.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary is considering a submission from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign on the need for an inquiry relating to events at Orgreave. She will set out the Government’s position in due course.”

Last year’s report by the IPCC came after a scoping exercise lasting more than two years into whether the watchdog should launch a full investigation into Orgreave. Several redacted sections of the report have now been seen by The Yorkshire Post.

According to the dossier, the suggestion that there were parallels to be drawn between the way that South Yorkshire Police officers behaved after Orgreave, and amendments made to officers’ statements about Hillsborough, was raised in the October 2012 broadcast of the BBC documentary Inside Out.

It was the allegations contained in that programme that prompted South Yorkshire Police to refer itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission later that year.

The Orgreave report addressed concerns that the events of 1984 “presaged the approach allegedly taken by SYP in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster five years later”.

The report’s author wrote: “There is no direct evidence that senior officers involved in Orgreave conspired to encourage or instruct officers to commit perjury.

“It is however of particular concern that our review found evidence that the senior officers became aware, after the event, of instances of perjury by SYP officers but did not wish it to be disclosed.”

According to a redacted section of the Orgreave report: “Some of those officers and the solicitor advising SYP regarding the Orgreave civil proceedings were also involved in the aftermath at Hillsborough.”

The report added that the unwillingness to disclose evidence of wrongdoing by officers “does raise doubts about the ethical standards of officers in the highest ranks at SYP at that time”.

In another redacted section, it adds: “The Hillsborough investigation is ongoing, and whilst I note the overlap of officers each matter must be considered on its own facts and my assessment of the Orgreave related matters is based on the evidence relating to Orgreave alone.”

In a separate section blacked out by the IPCC, the report’s author notes that a “number of commentators have seen links between Hillsborough and Orgreave”.

It said: “In the Guardian, Michael Mansfield QC and the shadow cabinet minister Maria Eagle said they believed SYP’s conduct at Orgreave and in its aftermath revealed a culture of malpractice with impunity that had not been remedied by the time the same force policed the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.”

Potentially the most revealing redacted section of the report details an interview with a police officer as part of the Hillsborough investigation.

In it, an explicit reference is made to links between the way evidence was gathered in the aftermath of Hillsborough and Orgreave.

The officer said no instructions were given to him on what to write in his pocket notebook in relation to Hillsborough.

But asked if he knew of instructions being given to other officers, he replied: “I’m not sure. Something rings in the back of my mind, if it was Hillsborough that officers in some divisions were told not to write anything in their books.”

He added: “And that concurs with something that happened at Orgreave. Didn’t apply to me but it applied to some of my colleagues and they were very upset about it. They were more or less told what to put in their books.

“But to be quite honest it’s not something I’d like to expand upon as I don’t really know. But from my point of view nobody said ‘don’t put anything in it”.

The IPCC cross-checked some of the officers named in its Orgreave report against the Hillsborough investigation, and found some overlap of officers, but said they could not be definitive.

Another redacted section shows that a solicitor named as ‘Mr H’ was instructed to represent South Yorkshire Police in both the Orgreave civil proceedings and in connection with Hillsborough.

At that time his role in advising on the drafting of statements was described as being ‘under investigation’.

The report says: “The attendance note dated 29 June 1988 referred to above, suggests that he and SYP were aware of evidence of perjury after the trial by arresting officers but decided, at that

time, not to disclose it.

“It is not, however, evidence that they encouraged or directed the giving of false or perjured evidence at the time the statements were made.”

Legal papers demanding a public inquiry into police conduct during violent clashes of the 1984-5 miners’ strike were handed to the Government in December.

Campaigners urged Home Secretary Theresa May to “consider either establishing an independent panel, similar to that established in 2009 to investigate the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, or a public inquiry”.

Members of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign expected a response to its submission in March, but have been told that evidence is still being examined. They are launching a campaign calling for an unredacted version of last year’s Orgreave report to be released.

Chair Joe Rollin said: “Hope and expectations are running high in mining communities that we will finally get justice for Orgreave, now that the jury has delivered justice to the Hillsborough families and survivors.

“Orgreave remains an essential part of the background to Hillsborough and it is imperative that it is fully investigated if trust in the police is to be rebuilt.

“We are now waiting to meet the Home Secretary for the second time and urge her to decide that there must be a full inquiry into Orgreave.

“We also call on the IPCC to disclose an un-redacted copy of its report into Orgreave so that the public can understand the full scale of its findings.”

Henrietta Hill QC, who helped prepare the evidence submitted to the Home Secretary, said the group “spent quite a lot of time explaining as best we could, the reasons why the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign want their truth now”.

She told the BBC last week: “Luckily, nobody died at Orgreave but there were serious assaults on miners by the police. There were false prosecutions of 95 people who were charged with riot, which at the time carried a life sentence.

“Those trials collapsed quietly behind closed doors because it was said that officers had lied. There has never been any accountability for anything that happened in relation to Orgreave.

“There are some clear potential parallels with what happened at Hillsborough.

“It is said now by some junior officers at Orgreave that they had parts of their statements dictated to them in the same way that we heard them in court in Hillsborough.”

She added: “There is a very real concern about parallel collusion with the media. We have heard now that they jury has concluded at Hillsborough that the fans were not to blame.

“Of course that narrative was pushed in the media by police for decades. It is said in relation to Orgreave that the miners were unfairly vilified. There has been no accountability.

“Potentially there is a chronological link. The Battle of Orgreave took place a few years before the Hillsborough disaster.

“It is a concern that the lack of accountability after Orgreave may well have created a culture of impunity that allowed what is said to have been the cover-up after Hillsborough to take place. So there may be a very clear link between the two.”

Dr Katy Shaw, of Leeds Beckett University, says Orgreave and Hillsborough 'shaped contemporary UK policing'.

Dr Katy Shaw, of Leeds Beckett University, says Orgreave and Hillsborough 'shaped contemporary UK policing'.

A jury last month ruled that the 96 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough were 'unlawfully killed'.

A jury last month ruled that the 96 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough were 'unlawfully killed'.