Fears ‘purdah’ could delay watchdog’s Orgreave probe announcement

Campaigners fear an announcement on whether the police watchdog will launch a full investigation into the 1984 ‘battle of Orgreave’ is in danger of being pushed back until after the General Election.

Miners Strike 1984 Orgreave Coking Plant Police with riot gear move pickets - 18 June 1984

The IPCC says it has made a decision on whether to launch a full Hillsborough-style probe into the clashes between police and striking miners, but is taking “legal advice about the publication of that decision”.

It is understood a report on the decision is being checked so it does not prejudice the ongoing Hillsborough inquests, which also involve South Yorkshire Police officers from the same era.

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The pre-election purdah period, during which civil servants are severely restricted on making long-term commitments or major policy decisions, starts on March 30 ahead of the General Election on May 7.

Barbara Jackson, secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, said the process of making a decision was taking so long she was now worried no announcement would be made before the General Election in May.

She said: “That is our worry. We owe it to our supporters and those men who were arrested at Orgreave, they have waited 30 years for some sort of justice.”

In November campaigners protested outside the London headquarters of the IPCC to mark the two years it has been carrying out a ‘scoping exercise’ on the issue.

At that point they were told an internal draft report would be put together by Christmas and that the watchdog’s lawyers would then look over the review, with a decision expected in the New Year.

Barbara Jackson told The Yorkshire Post: “We are feeling a bit dejected that we haven’t got the announcement. After the meeting and the demonstration outside the IPCC’s London office we were very confident that things were moving along .

“We are trying to understand all the legal issues involved but we feel we are being left a bit high and dry.

“We don’t want it to go right until May. All the political parties have started their election campaigns so early. They are all mad into it. Slowly people are going into purdah and lockdown.

“We are not politically affiliated and we can’t afford to follow them into that lockdown.”

In the ‘Battle of Orgreave’ 95 miners were arrested at Orgreave coking plant on June 18, 1984, after clashes with police during the national Miners’ Strike.

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

South Yorkshire Police referred itself to the watchdog in November 2012 after a BBC documentary claimed officers may have colluded in writing court statements which saw 95 striking miners wrongly charged.

Labour’s Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher said: “It is time to get on with this. If the IPCC either can’t or won’t look at this then Labour has made it clear we will have the investigation to deliver justice for all those who were affected by Orgreave.

“We should not be in this position where we are worried about purdah. The IPCC shoudld have made a decision months and months ago. It is one excuse after another.”

Respondng to the concerns, an IPCC spokesman said: “We appreciate the concerns regarding the delay but we are awaiting legal advice before we can finalise any plans for an announcement.”